This review contributed to the Independent Review of Children's Social Care by considering the evidence for services designated as ‘early help’. Such services are designed to provide support to children and families before problems escalate to the point where statutory services are required. As such, they may be provided at any point during childhood, although some may specifically target young children and their parents due to the perceived importance of the early years for developmental outcomes in later life
This rapid review found a range of positive outcomes for children and families for a range of different interventions to support and strengthen families. Despite the difficulties in evaluating early help, there is a growing case for funding and delivering these services. However, far more must be done to define and clarify the outcomes that the offer is intended to deliver.
The research evidence broadly suggests that the provision of early help can reduce rates of child welfare intervention and improve child and parent outcomes. However, a considerable part of the difficulty in developing early help policy that encompasses the diverse needs of families and children – both those that would benefit from universal support and those at the edge of child protection intervention – is the varied interpretation of what is classified as ‘early help’ and how varied measures and definitions of effectiveness are synthesized.
Find out more in our report or summary report, and read our news item about the report.