This report from the UK think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies looks at the feasibility of a new early childhood intervention in England.
The earliest years of life are a crucial period for children’s development. Experiences during these years can shape a child’s life chances; while many social problems (such as deprivation, poor health and economic inactivity) have their roots in the first few years of life, interventions during this period can also have long-lasting benefits. Research from around the world shows that well-designed early childhood programmes, particularly those that target disadvantaged children, can promote healthier long-term development and help to mitigate inequalities.
These programmes can deliver benefits not only to participants, but also to the public purse. Better development in childhood is linked to long-term benefits such as greater attainment in school and later education, higher earnings, better health and lower levels of crime. This in turn can benefit the government through higher tax revenues and lower spending on programmes such as remedial education or welfare. Equally, intervening ‘late’ to address problems such as hospitalisations or crime is often a costly approach. In some cases, these financial benefits of and prevented costs from early intervention programmes have more than compensated for public spending on these interventions.
In England, the preschool years have received increasing funding over the past two decades. But the bulk of these resources are still targeted at children aged 3 and 4. At the same time, there is increasingly strong evidence that inequalities – in child development and in health – are already obvious by age 2 or 3. This means that programmes for 3- and 4-year-olds need to compensate for the gaps that have already appeared, and current evidence suggests that they are only somewhat successful in this.Read Full Report