As a society we instinctively know that some of us need a little more help than others from time to time. Mostly, though, our public services are only designed to offer support when problems reach a certain level, such as when a child is self-harming or when a parent is struggling with ill health.
However, offering help at this stage is usually more expensive and time-consuming. It can also only lessen the impact of issues that — in extreme cases such as those of child abuse or neglect — will continue to influence a person’s life long after the event has passed. But too often overstretched public services are only able to respond much later, after the main damage has already been done.
Early support, then, is a broad term describing practical ways of helping children and families to help themselves to overcome problems before they start. It means the right services to support new parents, help toddlers develop, educate young people, improve the wellbeing of teenagers or address signs of abuse and neglect as early as possible.
Our experience working directly with children and young people has given us numerous examples of early support preventing issues from worsening. However, it has also alerted us to too many children and young people who are suffering unnecessarily simply because no-one was able to help them earlier.
It costs £2,700 to teach a child to read, but around £50,000 to support an adult who can't.The Long-term Costs of Literacy Difficulties,