The case for early intervention

Regardless of the speculation, Tony Blair is trying to spark a debate on key policy themes, with a series of lectures under the theme of ‘Our Nation’s future’ . His third lecture is on social exclusion (the previous two were on criminal justice and public health). It charted Labour’s successes on poverty and outlined the case for early intervention with children (video here WMP reqd). He identified four priority groups children in care, 7,500 families with complex problems (alcohol and/or substance abuse/offending etc), teenage parents and people with mental illness. He highlights how “… 2.5 per cent of every generation seem to be stuck in a life-time of disadvantage and amongst them are the excluded of the excluded, the deeply excluded.” He emphasised that: “Children from the 5 per cent of the most disadvantaged households are more than 100 times more likely to have multiple problems at age 15 than those from the 50 per cent of most advantaged households.” An important issue and debate but will anyone be listening?

  • Turbopaul

    FD, that is the problem with Blair’s retirement centre stage.

    All other policy decisions and reviews take a back seat to the detrement of the people.

    FD, a good example of why it is crucial for Blair to step aside.

  • apples and oranges

    yes a really important issue.

    The case for early intervention is a strong one.

    THe question arises over the form of intervention. And certainly, throwing money at the problem is no solution. I would argue for strong, tailored suppport systems for families facing difficulties (and indeed poverty is not the only component of social exclusion).

    However, the introduction of the ASBO was couched in this same language of early intervention and support. It was supposed to get to the root of the problem early and guide young people away from a life of crime. In fact, there is no support or intervention attached to an asbo. it simply says, “do that again and you’re in big trouble”. it makes no attempt to engage the (usually young) recipient in any positive way. it is like a kick to a dog who has misbehaved! so really the only purpose it could possibly be said to serve is deterrence. yet the government has made no attempt to assess its effectiveness as a deterrent. given the high breach rate, id guess its not very effective.

    My fear is that the government which introduced the asbo would also drift away from this rhetoric of positive forms of intervention, and that the final product would involve further ‘discipline’ for those bottom 5% of households. How would this help children in those households?

    TOny Blair points to Labour’s spending on nursery schools. Yet, nursery spending is only a fraction of what is spent on higher education. Where does this fit in to a stated aim of early intervention to remedy disadvantage?

    It is also worth considering the high level of child poverty in NI, and on a related point, the woeful childcare provision here. Recently discussed here in thread referring to Eamonn McCann’s attack on Mary McAleese’s ill-advised comments on child poverty in NI.

  • rapunsel

    I would support early intervention. Thus must be done however in a way that does not seek to blame these hard to reach excluded people. A member of my family works with children in care. A few years ago at a party one half of a middle aged couple asked my wife what she did — when she said I work with young people in care this person turned on her foot and walked away with obvious distaste and disgust. I was shocked. The issue is that this society does allocate blame to poor people for being poor. Mant if not all children in care for example would be there not due to some genetic predisposition to having problems but because their home and family circumstances often due to alcohol, drug misuse amongst parents as well as neglect and abuse etc. It really is quite scandalous that the state then again fails children( despite the best effort of staff in the NHS ) who are already being failed by their parents. Something could and should have been done by many of these issues before now and in many cases it is I believe the failure to allocate the necessary resources and denial about the negative and corrosive impact of poverty