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Early intervention is key

Many proverbs encourage immediate action instead of dealing with things later on ("a stitch in time saves nine"). They underpin the way we act in life, and it seems that the way we act in public service is also catching on ("Early years funds to shift towards prevention", TESS, 23 March).

Investing resources in work to prevent issues arising is long-term stuff: it doesn't make a difference overnight and it certainly takes more than a parliamentary or council term. Paradoxically, it has probably taken the squeeze of the recession on public funding to bring the issue to a head and make us all realise that if we don't change the way we work now, we never will and we will fail a generation of children.

For education and social work, preventative, early intervention work has been given a real push by government through the Early Years Task Force. Last month, Aileen Campbell, the minister for early years, launched a discussion paper on the objectives and aims of the task force at a joint Association of Directors of Education and Association of Directors of Social Work event. The main point of the paper is that if we get it right in the early years of a child's life, the positive impact will be lifelong.

There are excellent examples of people doing just that all over Scotland: the Glasgow parenting project; the East Lothian Signs of Safety work; and the under-3s early education programme in North Ayrshire. But this needs to become our default approach to designing and providing services and we also need to ensure that supporting vulnerable families to engage with and raise their children in a positive way is the aim of all public services.

Co-operation between universal services such as education and health and targeted services such as social work is crucial in getting this right.

Andrew Lowe, president of the Association of Directors of Social Work

Glenn Rodger, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.

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