Children's health and development: approaches to early identification and intervention
Many children arrive at school with problems of development and behaviour which affect their educational achievement and social interaction and can have lifelong consequences. There is a strong association between developmental vulnerability at school entry and a well-documented series of parent and family risk factors, often linked to social disadvantage. Strategies which are likely to make a difference to these children and improve outcomes include family support, high-quality early education and care programmes in the preschool years, and early detection of emerging problems and risk factors. The evidence suggests that these services and programmes are best delivered within a framework of progressive universalism-a universal basket of services for all children and families, with additional support commensurate with additional needs. This provides the best opportunity for early identification and appropriate intervention for emerging developmental problems and family issues that impact on children's development. While there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed and overcome, such an approach is an important investment that will yield measurable educational, social and economic benefits over the long term.