Children’s minister Beverley Hughes and care services minister Ivan Lewis today called on all English councils to adopt the government’s favoured early intervention programme for disabled children this year.
In a joint letter to directors of children’s services, they said councils and their partners would be monitored this year to ensure they are following the Early Support programme, which is for disabled children aged 0-5 and has been formally piloted in 45 areas and adopted in others.
The programme, funded by the Department for Education and Skills and co-sponsored by the Department of Health, is designed to provide integrated, child-centred services for the group, including through key workers and better initial assessments, and involve families in designing and delivering services.
The call from Hughes and Lewis follows this month’s Treasury report outlining government plans for disabled children’s services from 2008-11, which said early intervention was not happening on a consistent basis across the country, partly because of a lack of research into costs and benefits.
Government-commissioned research published last year found that Early Support had been a success in terms of improved multi-agency planning and parental satisfaction, and Hughes and Lewis said it was “vitally important that all local authorities and their partners engage with the Early Support approach”.
They said the DfES had provided £1.5m to the Early Support programme team to help roll out the scheme, targeting support at those areas where the approach was less well-developed, with the help of government offices for the regions.