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Early Intervention

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

Q2. What research he has evaluated on early intervention measures to tackle the causes of inequality, deprivation and under-attainment. (138662)

Helping every child to reach their full potential and closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged young people and their peers is a priority for our education policy. In that respect, the roll-out of children’s centres across the country—there will be 3,500 by 2010—the additional support for families with children, particularly the poorest, and early years intervention, when children are at both pre-nursery and nursery stage, are making a real difference, but I agree that much more needs to be done.

The Prime Minister will be aware that for every pound spent on intensive health visiting for the under-twos, £6 is saved on the costs of criminality, disrupted classes, antisocial behaviour and a lifetime on welfare benefits, so will he welcome the initiative being taken not only by Departments but by partners in Nottingham, to bring forward a package of early intervention measures so that we not only break the inter-generational cycle of deprivation, but save the taxpayer billions of pounds?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to his work and the work that has been done by the city of Nottingham particularly in respect of early intervention for families who are disadvantaged or in difficulty. He is right to say that the more we invest in the early stage, the better the return for the whole country later in life. As a result of the new measures we introduced and announced a couple of weeks ago, we will have the ability, especially through the focused work of health visitors and others, to make sure that children who really need help early in life, and the families who need help, receive it. As a result, as my hon. Friend rightly says, when we are also encouraging families to get off benefit and into work, we will make a real difference to child poverty in this country.

Will the Prime Minister consider commissioning reports and investigations into early interventions and the potential link between suffering from dyslexia and criminality later in life? Is he aware that there is a unique pilot scheme in Chelmsford prison that has identified that more than 50 per cent. of prisoners suffer from dyslexia? Help is being provided in the prison to allow them to overcome or minimise their problems, but there is no help once they leave prison, which could lead to ongoing problems and a return to criminality.

The point that the hon. Gentleman makes is good and valid. The Government are now looking at the links with some learning disabilities—dyslexia is an obvious one. He is absolutely right to say that many of those people in the prison population have not had the educational opportunities—often because they are dyslexic, have not been diagnosed properly and have not got the extra help that they need. We are looking specifically at how the early intervention programmes help those people. He is absolutely right in what he says, and when we have the results of the investigation that we are carrying out at the moment we will of course share them with the House.