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Early Intervention

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2010

Q2. What discussions he has had with hon. Members on an all-party approach to early intervention since 9 December 2009. (310397)

I have visited my hon. Friend’s constituency to look at early intervention programmes, and I am very happy that cross-party discussions on these matters take place. Everybody knows the importance of early intervention to help young children.

There are also tremendous economic consequences of early intervention, and early intervention bonds, social impact equities and many other financial instruments raise money from the capital markets rather than from the taxpayer. Will the Prime Minister please encourage the Treasury to look at these imaginative and creative ways of raising money, so that we not only help individuals but find a long-term way of writing down the national debt, thereby reducing the burden on UK taxpayers?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue of social impact bonds. They are being looked at by the Justice Secretary at the moment. If the first 48 months of a child’s life are more important than the next years because of what is learned or not learned, we have to do more to help children under five. That is why we introduced Sure Start and the child tax credit, and doubled the credit for children in their earliest years. It is also why we have given maternity and paternity leave. All these are important ways in which we can help young children in their earliest years, and I believe that there should be a cross-party consensus on keeping them; I hope that there will be.

Given that the Home Affairs Select Committee heard powerful evidence yesterday that one of the primary causes of crime is poor parenting and dysfunctional families, what more can this Government do to bring forward effective policies on early intervention to ensure that fewer children stumble on to the conveyor belt of crime?

If I may do so, I refer to the proposal that we are putting forward and the family intervention programmes that I saw in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen). Let us be honest: there are about 50,000 families in this country that lead such chaotic lives that we need to intervene and turn them round. We need to make a contract with them that a no-nonsense approach will be adopted by them and by us. That is what lies behind the family intervention programme. We are investing heavily in that, and in the parenting tuition that is necessary as part of it. I hope that the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) will agree that that is a way forward. That is a better expenditure of money to help the children he wants to help than a return to the married couples allowance.