UK government acts on early intervention

UK government acts on early intervention
28 July 2010

An independent review of early intervention, chaired by an opposition Labour MP, was announced today by the UK's coalition government.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, making the announcement, spoke of "unlocking children from generations of poverty", while his Liberal Democrat colleague, Sarah Teather, the children's minister, said that the government wanted to learn from successful approaches to helping troubled families and building on good practice.

Choosing a Labour MP to chair the review emphasises the cross-party nature of prevention and early intervention. Allen is well known in the UK for his commitment to early intervention, encouraging innovation in his economically disadvantaged constituency in Nottingham. Two years ago he and Duncan Smith published a book on the subject for the think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, which Duncan Smith founded in opposition to forge Tory strategy on social policy, particularly poverty.

Responding to his new post, Allen said that he was taking on the job "not for sectional interest or to score political points but to improve the life chances of people in constituencies like mine."

He added: "We not only need to prove we can take early intervention to a national level, we also need to find inventive ways to fund it in a time of economic drought."

Although a UK initiative, the review's double focus will also interest those in Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan who work in the field. Its first concern will be how to take prevention and early intervention to scale and to spread best practice. The second will look at sustainable funding in the context of the global economic downturn, and its impact on the public sector, which is primarily responsible for investing in prevention. The review will explore how private capital can be made available for prevention activity, and consider the potential for new financial instruments such as social impact bonds.

Duncan Smith said: “Graham understands that early intervention means tackling the root cause of social problems rather than spending years afterwards ineffectively treating the symptoms. I am delighted he will be chairing this review."

The review will report to a new sub-committee on social justice within Cabinet. The government said that this demonstrated a continued commitment in the UK to a cross-departmental approach to tackling the causes of poverty. The idea is to ensure that each department’s proposals are both fair and achieve a social return on investment.

The review will report by the end of January 2011 on the issue of best practice and provide an interim report on funding. A final report on funding will be produced by May 2011.

Prevention Action will be following the review’s work closely.


Allen, G. and Smith, I. D. (2008) 'Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens’, Centre for Social Justice and the Smith Institute.

Allen, G. & Smith, I. D. (2010) 'The cross-party challenge: early intervention for children and families', Journal of Children's Services, 5 (1), 4-8.


Graham Allen

Graham Allen was selected to contest the seat of Nottingham North at the 1987 General Election, a seat which had been won by the Conservative Party at the previous election in 1983.

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