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Children and families are being caught in a complex system when seeking help and support, according to a new report published today, by The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF).
The EIF is one of the ‘What Works’ centres established by the Government and has been collaborating with 20 carefully selected local places to oversee the practice of health agencies, health visitors and GPs and midwives working with early education services including children’s centres and nurseries.
The chief executive of the EIF, Carey Oppenheim, said: “The early years are a key period in a child’s development. The fragmented way we organise services for children from conception to five means vital needs are missed and opportunities lost. By integrating services around the young child and the family we can provide the right level of expertise to the right families at the right time.
“We are pleased to see the strong encouragement from Government today for health and early years checks at age two to be integrated throughout the country. Bringing health and education perspectives together to create a rounded picture of child development at this crucial stage is vitally important”.
The report, titled ‘Getting it right for families’ offers advice on how local services can incorporate early years support.
The EIF is calling for improved integration within public services to ensure that families are able to get the help and support that they need as quickly as possible without having to repeat their stories to multiple professionals.
Head of Implementation at the EIF and one of the report’s authors Donna Molloy, said: “The promising practice highlighted in this report needs to become the norm not the exception. Integration really matters because it is about services that are organised to suit families not the professionals that run them.
“We are looking forward to working with the Early Intervention Foundation 20 places and others to start putting some of this advice into practice and seeing real improvements in services for families.”
The report focuses on problems with services working together to share information, including information relating to live births with children's centres as well as problems with understanding, consistent boundaries and professional language throughout the early years system.
The EIF is requesting that the Government unblock information sharing and implement a national figurehead to front the early year’s integration, whilst working to create an inspection framework that combines the work done by the CQC and Ofsted.
Furthermore, the report encourages the idea that local areas should incorporate a review system for children aged two and consider offering families who require extra support a designated contact in the form of an early year’s key worker.
Dr Dan Poulter, Health Minister said: “We welcome the Early Intervention Foundation’s report and their work to show how integration can lead to improved services for young children and their families, designed around the needs of the child; an objective we share as a government.”
The EIF works to help agencies, local communities, and national policymakers identify problems faced by children and young people and offer support before problems worsen.