Places Network e-bulletin, December 2016

7 December 2016


A warm welcome to the first e-Bulletin for members of the EIF Places Network. Two editions a year, in between the two network meetings, are designed to keep our 99 members on the inside track of early intervention policy and practice, sharing news and good ideas and generating peer-to-peer learning. In this edition you will find latest updates on EIF projects and opportunities to get involved, and a brief summary of what happened at the October Network meeting. Plus some reflections from Carey Oppenheim, EIF’s Chief Executive, on the path ahead for early intervention, and information on how to book your place at EIF’s National Conference in May 2017. Hear it here first, before anyone else.

‘What’s ahead for early intervention’

Reflections from Carey Oppenheim, EIF Chief Executive

At the Early Intervention Foundation we are getting to grips with changes small and large, from settling into our new offices in 10 Salamanca Street, just south of the river in Vauxhall – home of Portuguese eateries – and more significantly a new Prime Minister, her Ministers and future policies that will shape the early intervention agenda.

It is still early days, but there are some important signs of the likely direction ahead. The narrative has shifted from ‘life-chances’ to tackling injustice and promoting social mobility. There is a particular focus on those who are ‘just about managing’, a wider group than just the most vulnerable. The PM is chairing a new Committee on Social Reform which brings together Whitehall departments. It has only met once as yet so difficult to read the runes, but high on the agenda are likely to be lifetime learning and making progress in work, adult learning, childcare and local economic growth.

The furore over grammar schools has somewhat overshadowed an important emphasis from Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, on investment in skills and higher education to increase social mobility. The announcement of the new £60 million Opportunity Areas across England will be an important vehicle for early intervention. The home learning environment is likely to have renewed interest, as will children and young people’s resilience and wider life skills. This will link strongly to our own work on social and emotional skills for children at risk of poverty, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which will generate evidence and practical tools early next year. It is also good to see the focus in the DFE Social Care Innovation programme on how targeted early support can prevent children from entering the child protection system.

There are encouraging developments at DWP where arrangements are being put in place for a new relationship support programme from April 2017. This will provide evidence-based targeted support for family relationships for the 6% most disadvantaged children, whether parents are together or separated. This initiative draws heavily on EIF’s work with Professor Gordon Harold on supporting family relationships as a route to improving outcomes for children. It should significantly increase the availability of support for relationship quality in the UK and fill a neglected aspect of early intervention activity.

In October the much awaited Troubled Families national evaluation reported that the programme had no significant impact on the range of intended outcomes. It is worth noting, however, that impact measurement is not a straightforward task. Troubled Families is not a single programme in the usual sense, it involves system-wide change and there is much variation in local delivery. The point of evaluation is to improve, not to prove – there are important lessons to be drawn from this work.

November saw a milestone for a Government decision on the future of mandation for Health Visitor checks pass largely unnoticed, despite huge local interest in retaining the checks as the spine of the Healthy Child Programme. Unless the Government changes course, the ‘sunset clause’ will bring the statutory requirement for these checks to an end in March 2017, but time for the political process to approve any change is running out. Is there life for Health Visiting Services and the HCP without mandated checks? We hope we don’t have to find out.

In the run up to the Autumn Statement we met with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke MP, armed with EIF’s updated analysis on the cost of late intervention spending to help make the case for early intervention. The total cost remains at nearly £17 billion per year in England and Wales – equivalent to £287 per person, but with a big increase in expenditure on domestic violence due to the rise in reported incidents. Indeed, the growing extent to which domestic abuse impacts on early help, children’s social care and policing makes it an urgent priority for effective early intervention.

A much changed world? Maybe, but early intervention is as important now as it ever was.

EIF Project Updates

A focus on the interparental relationship is becoming an increasingly important area of work for EIF. Since we published the ground-breaking IPR Review in February we have been working closely with DWP and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to grow the evidence base and create a ‘What Works Knowledge Repository’ on IPR. We will be publishing new analysis and programme assessments in the New Year, as well as an online guide for commissioners, which will support DWP’s national roll-out of contracts for targeted relationship support for disadvantaged families.

The Guidebook is a crucial asset for EIF, providing a one-stop shop for information on the evidence that exists about the impact of early intervention programmes, based on assessments by international evidence clearinghouses. EIF developments in early 2017 will include expanding the number of programmes to around 100, including programmes from recent and ongoing reviews of programmes in early years and social and emotional learning; introducing evidence ratings based on EIF’s own assessments of evidence; and introducing comparative cost ratings for the first time.

“Where has early intervention delivered results?” is one of the questions we get asked most often at EIF. In response we are developing an ‘Early Intervention Impact Hub’, to be launched early next year, documenting examples of early intervention which has delivered improvements in England. We are interested in hearing about examples where a focus on early intervention in a local area has been shown, by a credible evaluation, to improve child and family outcomes, service efficiencies or helped to reduce costs. Contact us via so that we can tell your story, profile your work, and share what you have learnt.

Members of EIF’s Early Intervention Academy for Police Leaders continue to develop their work locally and have been invited to work alongside Deputy Chief Constable Andy Rhodes from Lancashire Constabulary to inform the development of a national consensus statement between the police, NHS England, Public Health England and the Local Government Association, on joint working around prevention and vulnerability. This will draw on the Charter for Early Intervention in Policing, which the Academy launched in July 2016.

EIF is collaborating with the Local Government Association and the NSPCC to review the evidence on what works in child protection and how this can be used to inform local decisions about managing demand and resources. This report will be published early next year.

EIF is working with the national Troubled Families Team on two important projects, which will influence the future direction of the Programme. The first is a guide to commissioning parenting interventions for the Troubled Families cohort, which draws on 30 evidence-based programmes identified through our Foundations for Life and Inter-Parental Relationships reviews. We expect this to be published early in the new year. The second project is a ‘functional map’ of the Troubled Families workforce across the country – we have been running a series of focus groups with Troubled Families key workers and lead workers to understand exactly what these roles entail. This will provide a starting point for further policy discussions and decisions about key worker recruitment, training and development.

The opportunity to hear first-hand from author Dr Kirsten Asmussen about Foundations for Life at EIF’s free Early Years Evidence Seminars is proving hugely popular. If you haven’t been able to catch her yet don’t worry, there are a further two sessions in the New Year in Manchester and London, where you will also hear more about EIF’s forthcoming work on consolidating Foundations for Life with the Healthy Child Programme Rapid Review. Book now!

EIF was funded by the Home Office in 2015/16 to explore the components of most effective early intervention multi-agency systems (MAS), and the findings were covered at the EIF Places Network meeting in October (see slides 10-12 here). The interim (unpublished) report is being made available to Network members on request.

We are now seeking five sites to help us test and illustrate a model for categorising multi-agency systems. To register an interest or to request a copy of the report, please contact us at To participate in EIF’s MAS Testing, sites should have a defined early intervention multi-agency system for children and young people, with some evaluation evidence of process and/or impact, and be able to:

  • Collect and submit background information (e.g. plans and strategies, structure charts, monitoring & evaluation reports) between 16– 27 January.
  • Co-ordinate a day of onsite interviews with key local stakeholders to take place in February.

Places Network meeting, October 2016

Reflections from Ben Lewing, Senior Adviser at EIF

October marked a new chapter in the life of the EIF extended family with the launch of the new EIF Places Network, with 99 members representing 57 Local Authorities, Police & Crime Commissioners and Police Forces. We felt the time was right to create a new, refreshed network which includes some of the areas we have worked with recently as well as our original 20 pioneering places. This will help us to bring them up to speed with the latest developments at EIF and our two ground breaking reviews, Foundations for Life and Inter-parental relationships.

EIF launched the new Places Network with a meeting of 37 network members from 29 different areas this autumn. The full day covered EIF project updates; workshops on evaluation, and on information sharing; and sharing local learning and innovation. This is what people said:

“Evaluation session was really helpful.”

“Arranged to get together with Luton & Cheshire West – great networking.”

“Very topical issues, and great to hear developments in other areas.”

The dialogue didn’t duck the really big issues: how to get a bigger platform for EI when social care has the biggest voice; developing systemic whole family workforce practice; the importance of readiness for change in making implementation work; how to engage the health system in multi-agency working, especially on information sharing; moving evaluation from a theoretical ‘nice to have’ to a real-life ‘must do’. So, when there are no easy answers, opportunities to share practical solutions with like-minded people become all the more important. See you in March.

‘Evaluating early intervention in the real world’ 

EIF assembled a stellar cast led by the new Director of Evidence, Tom McBride, to guide Network members through a discussion about why evaluate and where to start. Professor Betsy Stanko, EIF associate, noted the issues of capacity and complexity but challenged the audience to mine the data goldmine. Laura Stock, EIF Senior Research Officer, defined and explored the purpose of impact, process and economic evaluations. Dr Kirsten Asmussen, EIF Evidence Analyst, described the 10 steps of evaluation, building on a good theory of change.

The theory was then illustrated with practical examples from West Midlands and Luton.

What delegates said about the session:

“Really helpful – particularly the considerations as to what specifically you are evaluating and why”

“Really liked the 10-step model”

“Very useful and logical approach to set out to academic partners what our evaluation needs to achieve – I will go away & use this tomorrow”

As a whole the issue of how to strengthen the case for early intervention in the face of rising social care demand and reducing budgets resonated strongly. LGA has estimated that early help budgets have fallen by 56% in the past five years. Some Places described early help being pulled up towards the safeguarding threshold. There was a strong appetite for a focus on how upstream indicators demonstrate reduced pressure on late costs, and more on practical examples.


EIF is now exploring a new evaluation support offer for sites to meet demand – more information will be available in the new year. In the meantime the following links may be useful:

For more information contact Laura Stock, Senior Research Officer, Early Intervention Foundation

‘Information sharing solutions: Innovation to address the culture and practice of sharing information’

The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing led a workshop at the EIF Places Network meeting in October. Attended by practitioners from local authorities and the police, the day was the first of its kind, providing the opportunity to share learning and good practice on early intervention, including workshop sessions on information sharing and evaluation.

The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing are independent of Government and actively working with local places to identify their information sharing issues. The workshop session focused on examining the barriers to multi-agency information sharing using recent work commissioned by the Department for Education ‘Information Sharing to Protect Vulnerable Children and Families’.

Using the report as a tool to shape discussions, practitioners were encouraged to share stories about the cultural barriers that commonly prevent information sharing from taking place earlier. Factors such as risk aversity, long standing concerns over trust between agencies and fear of the consequences of sharing information were reported to be significant barriers faced in local places.

The session also provided space for delegates to share their experiences of how they worked to overcome these barriers to improve organisational efficiency, but most importantly to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families.

The event felt like a great success, with lots of new relationships being formed to join up learning and innovation. A number of delegates committed to continuing conversations with the Centre and one another around tackling the cultural barriers to information sharing.

Barriers reported by delegates that are currently preventing information from being shared:

  • Partnerships databases/systems are not interoperable or accessible to all partner agencies.
  • Rules for information-sharing are not well understood by partners.
  • Confusion over thresholds for referrals (to share personal information from one partner to another).
  • Poor handover of cases between practitioners both internally and externally across partnerships impacting on sharing information.
  • Confusion over risk factors resulting in the poor sharing of information.

Barriers reported by delegates that have been overcome in their local place:

  • Confusion over thresholds for referrals (to share personal information from one partner to another).
  • Poor relationships between partner agencies.
  • Poor leadership / supervision of multi-agency information-sharing activity.
  • Poor information governance processes for multi-agency information-sharing activity.
  • Poor record-keeping.

Case Studies: Information Sharing in Local Places

Good practice in local places

  • Practitioners reported the importance of building strong working relationships with information governance teams in order to better ‘join up’ decision-making.
  • Combined training of practitioners and professionals within a multi-agency environment focusing on how and when to share information.
  • Implementation of a new case management system, supported with joint multi-agency training to tackle the cultural aspects of information-sharing (such as understanding the reasons for information-sharing, who will receive the data, the fear around sharing vs not sharing information) as well as the technical aspects.
  • Joining up departments within health to better share information about 0-5 years antenatal visits.

What delegates said about the session: 

“Great session … to share our learning and talk about barriers that we don’t often acknowledge.

“I hadn’t heard of the Centre but now I am keen to stay abreast of their work.

“Fantastic to hear a wealth of different (but similar) ways of addressing early intervention challenges.”

For more information contact Emma Hart, Engagement Manager, Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing.

Get involved

Next meeting

The next meeting of the EIF Places Network is on 23 March in London. Book your place now to hear the latest progress on early intervention and share learning with local authority, public health and police colleagues.

What should we cover?

Help us set the agenda for future Places Network meetings – cast your vote!

A ‘virtual places network’ – are you in?

One of the suggestions which came from the last Places Network meeting was for a ‘virtual learning hub where we can talk to colleagues across the country about approaches, tools and methodologies’. EIF would welcome your views on this, and in particular on the option of setting up a private LinkedIn group.

EIF National Conference 2017: save the date!

EIF’s flagship annual event will take place in London on Thursday 11 May, bringing together people from across the early intervention sector and all levels of government, commissioning and delivery. Named members of the EIF Places Network qualify for a 20% discount.