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Early intervention in action – improving the lives of children and families

Tuesday March 4th, 2014

The unveiling of the Early Intervention Foundation almost one year ago arguably marked one of the most important milestones in the government-backed drive to place early help at the heart of provision for vulnerable young people and families.

Initiatives have been implemented across the UK that are successfully cutting crime, boosting attendance and achievement in schools and improving young people’s health and well-being. The Foundation plays a key role in ensuring examples of best practice in early intervention are championed and shared.

Phil Neal

Phil Neal

Informed decision-making

In an age when knowledge is power, many authorities are making better use of the data they are already recording on children and families to identify those most in need, understand their changing circumstances and put support in place sooner to improve their lives.

Barnsley Council is just one authority that has been doing some great early intervention work in partnership with schools in the area to identify and improve outcomes for children who are at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) from 16 years of age.


Delivering effective early help for children at risk of becoming NEET in Barnsley

Barnsley produced a vulnerability matrix designed to spot young people in the borough whose background and circumstances put them at greater risk of falling out of education, employment or training from 16 years of age.

“We needed a wide range of data to identify the right young people, such as information from schools, details of special educational needs and postcodes as well as any history of teenaged parenthood or involvement in youth offending,” said Tracey Herbert from the Targeted Youth Support Service at Barnsley Council.

“Producing the matrix was a laborious task, which involved various members of staff having to contact different agencies or pulling information in from multiple databases. The job was so huge that it could only be tackled annually.”

The council wanted a much more efficient and effective way to identify those young people who might require some additional support to get the best start in life.

It started using a piece of software supplied by Capita One to collate and analyse the wealth of data needed to measure children’s vulnerability to ending up NEET. The data involved included details of a child’s ethnicity, historical information on their attendance or exclusion from school and whether or not they were in care. Young people who were not expected to make two levels of progress from Key Stage 2 to 3 were among those analysed by the software. A tailored category was also designed to include information on those who had become teenaged parents.

“We run the software every month and pinpoint those who have the potential to become NEET. We simply wouldn’t have the capacity to carry out regular data analysis on that scale without the software,” said Tracey.

“This enables us to liaise with schools more effectively and ensure that even those young people on the borderline of being at risk of becoming NEET are identified and supported. With factors like school attendance changing all the time, the tool enables us to keep a much closer eye on the progress of young people in the area.”

The council uses the information to help ensure those young people flagged as vulnerable get the help they need – either directly from their schools or through more targeted support delivered by the authority.

Schemes like the one implemented in Barnsley demonstrate the critical role data plays in supporting effective early intervention and prevention initiatives to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society.

With early help becoming an increasingly important consideration in the way local authority provided services are planned and delivered, the need for council staff to make good use of data on children and families will be key to success in the years ahead.


Phil Neal is Managing Director of Capita Children’s Services. To read more about the early intervention work being done in Barnsley to reduce the number of young people in the area who become NEET, click here.

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