Importance of early intervention in safeguarding

What Is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is vital in the safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults. In a time of shrinking budgets and increasing demand, early intervention promotes welfare, safety, development and societal stability at a huge cost saving. It also plays a part in preventing problems developing later, and goes a long way in attempting to rectify those which have already begun to manifest. Early Intervention it is at the heart of Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

When we think of identifying early problems for an individual or a family we can be guilty of working to a process, following guidelines and managing the issue without understanding the bigger picture. This isn’t uncommon in scenarios which offer a repeat of the same low-level issue in many daily scenarios.

We Need To See The Bigger Picture

The impact of providing a single intervention without anticipating wider issues can be extremely damaging. Whilst providing intervention for a recurring behaviour can result in the resolution of that issue i.e. a behaviour, attitude or cleanliness change, unless you can see that entire picture you can be making these interventions in isolation. For example, a child who steals may receive a sanction, be arrested, prosecuted, and released. The week after they may be caught doing exactly the same thing.

Intervention could seek to see outside of the theft to understand: why is he stealing? Can we help? Are there restorative options? A lack of intervention causes a repeat offence, the loss to the victim, a legal process time and cost. The existing problem is cyclical. In safeguarding, early intervention seeks to address the issues raised in a concern, to deal with the situation an individual is faced with by looking at the root causes.

Indications Of A Bigger Issue

In a safeguarding arena, we know that behaviours, attitudes, and actions can indicate a bigger issue. We also know that gaining visibility of those issues can be difficult unless you have a holistic picture. “This child has not had breakfast on a Monday and Tuesday morning for three months”, in some environments sadly this is not an unusual situation. The same child is withdrawn or unclean. Intervention at this stage could uncover a pattern of difficulty at home, such as financial problems, parenting concerns, even serious child protection issues.

"Taking steps to address these issues starts with knowing that the problem exists, seeing the whole shared picture clearly and in one place."

Addressing The Cause Of Behaviour

Intervention sees an opportunity to make something better by finding a way to assist or overcome an issue. A child who struggles with his/her behaviour may be identified as needing sanctions, but those sanctions alone could potentially prevent his/her development and attainment as they fail to address where the behaviour stems from. There is compelling evidence to suggest that a lack of intervention can impact on a child’s brain development and subsequently their view of the world, social interaction, and aspirations. Not dealing with issues for a child early in their development could significantly impact on future relationships, their moral and value outlooks, and their potential involvement in crime.

Cost Savings

Over £17Bn is spent addressing problems that affect children and young people [1] through crime, mental health, unemployment and absence from education.

"In my view early intervention can play a big part in preventing the cost impacts on society, and more importantly can help protect children and young people."

It is unquestionable that many agencies and organisations are financially struggling today. They are time pressured and in many cases are managing competing responsibilities, but a small investment early-on can prevent damaging young people and can make productivity and efficiency savings later down the line.

Welfare Of Children

The complexities of early intervention cannot be summarised easily and the competing pressures for managing safeguarding can be overwhelming in many settings. There is no question that adopting a good culture of safeguarding and a well-managed recording and monitoring system will ensure the identification of a need for intervention. This will undoubtedly impact on the immediate and short-term welfare of children and can have a significant long-term individual and societal impact.

[1] http://www.eif.org.uk/

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