Early years prevention and intervention

Early years prevention and intervention

Early years prevention and intervention


Between 2015-2017, we ran a three-year programme of Fellowships focused on early years prevention and intervention. Thirty Churchill Fellows visited 13 countries, exploring best practice in how to give children aged 0-3 years the social and emotional bedrock they need to reach their full potential. This programme was run in partnership with The Dulverton Trust and Wave Trust, and has created an influential cohort of innovators in this field.

Lorraine George
Lorraine George (CF 2017, seated) researched intergenerational care for young children and older people Download 'Early years prevention and intervention_Lorraine George.jpg'

According to the Early Intervention Foundation, the UK Government spends an estimated £16.6 billion per year on young people’s issues that could have been prevented by interventions in their early years – issues such as youth crime, mental health and unemployment. Such problems are worsened by early years experience of physical abuse or emotional neglect, which affect 1 in 5 children.

Our three-year Fellowship programmed aimed to help address this problem, exploring international best practice in how to give children aged 0-3 years the best start in life. The programme culminated in a one-day public conference in London, in 2018: Churchill’s Babies, a Global Perspective on Best Practice in Infant Mental Health.

Eleven Fellows presented their global findings on topics ranging from perinatal mental health initiatives in Australia to support for families affected by substance abuse in the USA. The opening address was given by Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, then Leader of the House of Commons and a passionate advocate of early years intervention.

The sell-out audience at the prestigious Mercers’ Hall included many of the most influential practitioners in this field and was co-hosted with PIP UK, whose medical director Robin Balbernie is a Churchill Fellow and personally programmed the event. Financial support was provided by programme partners The Dulverton Trust and WAVE Trust, and the venue provided by long-term partner The Mercers’ Company. In this way, we were able to gather and promote the accumulated insights of a dedicated community of changemakers on a key issue.

Fellows in this programme have gone on to lead remarkable initiatives. Here are some examples of their work:

  • Child protection expert Suzanne Smith (CF 2016) created the first ever co-ordinated UK programme aimed at preventing Abusive Head Trauma, which is caused by shaking babies. ‘ICON: Babies Cry, You Can Cope’ delivers information and support for new parents via GPs, midwives and healthcare professionals. It was launched in Hampshire in 2018 and has since been adopted by health services in more than 12 different areas across the UK. Suzanne said, “I had read about prevention programmes in the USA and Canada, but the opportunity given to me by the Fellowship to actually see these programmes in action was invaluable. I am enormously proud of the way ICON is being embraced by professionals across the country. If ICON prevents one death from Abusive Head Trauma, then I will have achieved my aim.”
  • Victim support worker Emma Rogers (CF 2016) produced a short film based on the findings from her Fellowship which explored doula support for vulnerable pregnant women. 'Take Her Hand' presents inspiring case studies and shares practical approaches to transforming the perinatal outcomes for vulnerable families. It was premiered in 2018 at Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe festival and has since been screened at many other events around the country.
  • Academic Dr Carolyn Blackburn (CF 2015) convened an interdisciplinary conference on early care and education for children born prematurely, in July 2017 in Birmingham, featuring leading international experts in the field who Carolyn had met on her Fellowship. Additionally, she published several articles and a book on her Fellowship findings entitled Developing Inclusive Practice for Young Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. She is internationally recognised for her work in this area and has delivered presentations on her Fellowship findings around the world.
  • Childcare worker Lorraine George (CF 2017) set up the first UK co-located intergenerational programme with childminders working from a care home, which supports children to engage with the older residents throughout the day. The project was set up in collaboration with another Churchill Fellow, Kay Jodrell (CF 2019), in Torbay and received the 2020 Best Inclusive Practice Nursery World Award. Lorraine also published an intergenerational activities book and has become an intergenerational tutor, trainer and speaker, promoting the benefits that come from bringing the young and the old together. Read Lorraine’s blog.
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