Two MPs from opposing parties – Iain Duncan-Smith MP and Graham Allen MP – have authored a unique collaboration with a unique answer to many of society’s ills.
Early Intervention, Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens is published by the Smith Institute and the Centre for Social Justice and was launched in September 2008 in the House of Commons.
The authors’ thesis is that a more grown-up, all-party approach is now necessary, after thirty years of failure by governments of all parties, to tackle the fundamental causes of the symptoms of social deprivation including teenage pregnancy, anti-social behaviour, low educational attainment, drug and alcohol abuse and poor parenting.
Their remedy is Early Intervention – which they argue is both cheaper, and more effective, than the current expensive and failed philosophy of Late Intervention. Their long term plan for Early Intervention is designed to break the intergenerational cycle of underachievement, evident in so many of our inner and outer city estates, by helping all 0-18 year olds become good parents, not least to optimise their impact on the 0-3 age group when positive nurturing has its greatest impact.
This is supported not only by a rigorous analysis in the book, but by reference to the practical Early Intervention package being implemented in Nottingham by the Local Strategic Partnership (One Nottingham). For the first time in the UK, this Early Intervention package pulls together a comprehensive “Virtuous Circle” of policies across the 0-18 age group. These include: preconception support, a family/nurse partnership (intensive health visiting for 150 single mums and babies), children’s centres, the teaching of SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) to every primary school child, an anti-crime course for every 10 year old in the city, a drug and alcohol aware programme for every pre-teen child in Nottingham, 11-16 Life Skills, pre-parenting courses for every teenager and many other specific interventions being pioneered by One Nottingham.
Iain and Graham* have met the three party leaders, and in the book detail 7 specific requests they have made of them regarding: the next manifesto, proper research, a national policy centre, action by local government, the comprehensive spending review, a local plan and treasury study.
“We are challenging out dated thinking in all parties. We need to build a social and political consensus if we are to go beyond treating the symptoms, and break once and for all, the inter-generational nature of our social problems. We hope our personal collaboration is the forerunner of something at national level.”
* Graham is member of parliament for the constituency with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, and the fewest number of young people going on to university.