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The Duchess of Cambridge makes a strong call for more early intervention


21 Mar 2018

EIF chief executive Jo Casebourne reports back from the Early Intervention Symposium, at which the Duchess of Cambridge delivered a rousing call for early intervention to safeguard the social, emotional and mental wellbeing of children.

It was an honour and a real pleasure to attend today’s Early Intervention Symposium, hosted by the Royal Foundation. There was a who’s-who of early intervention in the audience, and a palpable sense of energy and shared endeavour.

The Royal Foundation is the charity established by Princes William and Harry with the Duchess of Cambridge, and today’s event was led by the Duchess, who spoke enthusiastically and with great determination about her commitment to early intervention – and in particular to the task of equipping children with the social and emotional skills to navigate the challenges of life. As the Duchess said: “We need mental health support in primary schools, before the biological changes and academic pressures of adolescence kick in … Addressing the issues only when they take root, later in life, results in huge detriment.”

This focus on social and emotional learning as providing a bedrock of resilience and personal skills that are essential for life and a valuable protective factor against negative experiences as a child grows up is an important part of our work at the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF). As part of our research into the role of social and emotional learning in schools, we have advocated for PSHE to be made a compulsory part of the curriculum, and for Ofsted to consider a primary school’s performance in supporting pupils’ wellbeing, just as they do with respect to academic performance. I will join the Duchess in quoting from the report of Graham Allen, EIF’s founding chair: “If we intervene early enough, we can give children a vital social and emotional foundation, which will help to keep them happy, healthy and achieving throughout their lives.”

Nonetheless, the Duchess did not shy away from the challenges facing all of us working in this sector – as she said: “These are lifetime issues, they require very long-term perspectives. But the issues are also complex and multi-sided, so they need integrated, collective approaches to create real impact.”

We know from our many interactions with local authorities and public services that this complexity is a massive challenge – there is never a single, silver-bullet solution to the problems facing a child, family or community. This is part of the reason why, when my colleagues Donna Molloy and Tom McBride gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into evidence-based early intervention just yesterday, they stressed the need for joined-up thinking and strategy to shape support for children across Whitehall – and this collective effort clearly needs to involve other organisations as well.

Alongside today’s symposium, The Royal Foundation announced its plan to establish a steering group for early intervention to support the social, emotional and mental wellbeing of young children. This initiative is warmly welcomed, as it provides an opportunity to galvanise the sometimes disparate efforts of an early intervention community that is spread widely across so many areas of social policy and action, and to draw valuable extra attention to an agenda which continues to gain traction, but has so much further still to go.

We look forward to contributing to furthering the Duchess’s mission in the months ahead.

About the author

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.