Prevention involves developing strengths, supports and strategies to prevent a problem from arising. Early Intervention involves anticipating and addressing problems as they arise or escalate. While Prevention and Early Intervention applies across all ages and life stages, the focus of the What Works Initiative will be on children, young people and their families.
Evidence shows that disadvantage suffered at an early stage tends to multiply as children become older, and that effective prevention and early intervention can halt and reverse poor outcomes amongst children. If Prevention and Early Intervention is based on best available evidence, using the best approaches and delivered by the best placed people, this has significant benefits for children, young people and their families and is also an effective and efficient use of resources.
We all do. Prevention and Early Intervention is a whole-of-society activity and features in and across a range of systems and settings such as families and communities, and in education, health and social services. Prevention and Early Intervention is particularly important for children and young people as this age range (0 – 24) represents one-third of the Irish population. This age group involves a range of key developmental phases where many challenges can arise. All citizens have either current or previous experience of being a child or a young person, and are aware of the significance that this period has in our growth and development.
In the past 10 years there has been considerable policy, practice and organisational developments in the range of sectors and settings working with and for children and young people. A common theme in these developments is an increasing focus on early intervention and prevention approaches informed by best available evidence to achieve better outcomes for children and young people.
Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 – 2020 identifies Prevention and Early Intervention as a key transformational goal for children’s services.
What Works aims to ensure that what works effectively in prevention and early intervention to support the wellbeing of children, young people and their families is harnessed and applied across the relevant services and supports.
What Works is an initiative designed by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and funded through Dormant Accounts, which aims to take a coordinated approach to enhance capacity, knowledge and quality in prevention and early intervention for children, young people and their families.
The initiative will ensure that key groups working with children, young people and families know what works, how it works and will provide an evidence supported approach to apply to this work.
What Works is firmly embedded in the context of current policy developments and related initiatives.
- What Works supports the implementation of a range of commitments relating to data development, evidence informed approaches, standards and workforce development as detailed in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures.
- What Works supports the implementation of the transformational goal of prevention and early intervention in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures which is the Department of Children and Youth Affair’s cross-sectoral priority for 2015/2016.
- What Works aims to connect and consolidate the learning from a number of innovative initiatives and programmes funded/co-funded by Government and The Atlantic Philanthropies that have already been evaluated, or are being evaluated, in the Irish context, including:
- The Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) 2007-2013
- The Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative (PEII)
- Area Based Childhood Programme (2013-2017)
- The Prevention Partnership and Family Support Programme (PPFS) in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency
- The Nurture programme and Parents Support Initiative in the Katherine Howard Foundation
- The Early Intervention Transformation Programme in Northern Ireland.
- What Works will provide a platform for engagement and on-the-ground implementation through Children and Young People’s Services Committees (CYPSCs).
- What Works offers opportunities for connections and learning to be maximised across policy areas relating to the 5 National Outcomes in the area of prevention and early intervention for children, young people and their families.
What Works is aimed at those working with and for children, young people and their families. This initiative aims to be system-wide along the policy, provision and practice continuum. It will include policy makers, statutory agencies, researchers and academics, voluntary organisations and practitioners who work with children, young people and their families. Given the potential scale of the initiative it will be introduced on a staggered basis initially to those sectors and practice areas which are directly involved in prevention and early intervention provision for children and young people.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has overall responsibility for the implementation of What Works. It is be led by a Programme Team in the Tusla Programme Development and Cross Government Framework Unit, and uses the expertise of key stakeholders in the area of prevention and early intervention for children, young people and their families. As What Works will be delivered across different sectors and disciplines, it is important that support and expertise in these areas are utilised in the development and delivery of this initiative.
It is important to note that the design and delivery of What Works will follow a developmental approach.
Each of the various components will be developed in a phased format to ensure that it meets the needs of stakeholders and is responsive to emerging themes and trends.
The Governance Group of the programme was established in June 2017 and comprises policy makers from a number of Government Departments and State Agencies, academics, representation from the Children and Young People Services Committee’s (CYPSCs) and the National Children and Young People’s Advisory Council.
The group will engage with specialists who have developed innovative methods in research, data management, workforce development and organisational change initiatives.
The governance group will also utilise the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures implementation structures to support the delivery of the initiative.
- What Works will, for the first time, bring together the key learning in prevention and early intervention from different initiatives, practice fields and organisations which speak to and support the needs of children, young people and their families and translate this in a strategic and practical approach.
- What Works will improve the access, understanding, quality and use of data and evidence through resource development and training and coaching.
- What Works aims to include and align all of these key groupings in accessing and using the best learning in prevention and early intervention to improve outcomes for children and young people.
- What Works will also fully utilise the existing learning and expertise within the sectors working with children and young people to harness efforts and maximise impact.
- What Works will be an important development in supporting key developments currently being developed, such as the introduction of a commissioning model.
- What Works is intentionally developmental and iterative which is necessary in terms of cultivating innovation and introducing a change programme of this scale. The initiative will aim to retain a degree of flexibility in implementation so that it may identify and resource emerging best practice while also being responsive to emerging needs and themes impacting in the sectors and services which work with children and young people.
- What Works is structured on the 5 National Outcomes in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures. The initiative will span and strengthen the system connections for children, youth and family services supporting improved outcomes.
What Works is funded through Dormant Accounts Funding.