Great news to see the Early Intervention Foundation’s announcement of its 20 “Pioneering Places” which are designed to set the direction in the delivery of Early Intervention. The focus is on how they are spending money for what effect.
They will need to specify the required outcomes of intervening early through a local Early Intervention Commissioning Strategy, and ideally an Outcome Framework which connects required community outcomes to outcome based performance measures. A critical challenge will be bringing together a wide range of agencies commissioning and delivering early intervention. We know that community budgets have been challenging to implement, and Police and Crime Commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Directors of Public Health all need to be involved here alongside Children’s Services and schools.
Also essential will be the accurate identification of a cohort to target, and meeting the significant challenges of reaching and engaging with that cohort. Then the Places will need to work through the challenges of only commissioning interventions with a strong evidence base and ensuring they are delivered with fidelity. And of course Places will need to understand how they are going to measure outcomes and associated savings. Ultimately, impact measures need to provide hard enough evidence to persuade investors.
It seems that the Foundation’s approach is to be commissioner led at least to start with, and it is not clear what support there will be for providers. This is important – alongside recognised evidence based models (which are often very costly to deliver), many providers have developed models with a “softer” evidence base and are keen for guidance on how to go about impact measurement in way that will really test out the robustness of their results.
One of the Foundation’s aims is to help to pull investment from late intervention into early intervention. And this will be quite a challenge. Government funding on early intervention for local authorities is significantly down this year, while councils experience reduced budgets and rising demand for services. This has meant an even stronger focus on statutory services like child protection, with little left to invest in services designed to prevent problems down the line. clear evidence of effectiveness clearly vital both in making the case for a shift in resources, and to attract investors. The “Pioneering Places” will indeed be quite a test bed.