Intensive support should be offered to families in need at the earliest opportunity to prevent their difficulties escalating into crises, Action for Children said today.
Research commissioned by the charity found working in-depth at an early stage with families experiencing problems such as substance misuse was particularly effective in helping safeguard children against neglect.
The study, based on four Action for Children family support projects across the UK, also demonstrated that providing targeted support to the whole family often solved problems specifically affecting children, such as truanting and antisocial behaviour.
The charity said that the findings were particularly relevant in the light of Lord Laming’s child protection review, published last week.
In his report, Laming said: “Leaders of local services must recognise the importance of early intervention and ensure that their departments support children as soon as they are recognised as being ‘in need’, averting escalation to the point at which families are in crisis.”
Action for Children also called for consistent investment in both early intervention and acute family services, echoing recommendations made by Laming.
Chief executive Clare Tickell said: “Helping parents to be more effective in resolving smaller problems themselves gives them skills and confidence to tackle the more challenging issues.
“Support must be available in an environment where parents feel comfortable and able to talk about their needs without being branded bad parents.”
The recommendations arising from the research have been fashioned into a “practice development kit” for managers of Action for Children family support projects.