Page 4135 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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As I have already discussed, the government is committed to ensuring the best outcomes for the ACT’s children and young people. For young people who are at risk of coming into contact with the youth justice system, intervening at the right time can transform their lives and set them on the path to a positive and fulfilling adult life.

By nature, young people are risk takers. But research and experience tell us that by strengthening protective supports, people will be less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (3.57): The term “early intervention” is used widely to define a range of services for a wide range of people. It can define intervention that occurs at a particular point in a process, such as identifying a medical disorder early in its onset, but it is often related to the interventions that are targeted towards children and young people with a view to intervening early enough in their development so as to impact on their life outcomes.

Early intervention can also be about intervening at crucial stages of development and transitions between services such as between preschool and primary school and primary school and secondary school, for example. There is a strong body of evidence to now suggest that identifying children at risk—perhaps due to biological or environmental disadvantage—and intervening can improve health, social and educational outcomes and set children and young people on a path to better lives. Early intervention can focus both on individual children but also on parents and families as they provide a crucial support for a child to thrive.

Early intervention can also prevent the development of future problems, such as emotional and social problems, substance abuse and criminal behaviour. The theory of early intervention accepts the notion that a person’s experience in early childhood is crucial in determining health and wellbeing outcomes. Identifying and targeting populations that are at risk of social and developmental disadvantage and investing in services that target the young reflects better outcomes across education and even employment. Investing in the young delivers lifelong benefits both to the individual but also ultimately to the community as a whole.

As such, the cost of providing early intervention services is invested to deliver a long-term benefit. This can sometimes make it very difficult to accurately measure the impact of an early intervention service, especially when an individual may have been targeted by more than one service over their early years. It is easy, perhaps, to measure the success of an early intervention language program for two to three-year-olds by measuring the changes they have made over a short period of time but harder to estimate the impact such a program might have on their ongoing educational outcomes and, therefore, their employment opportunities or their propensity to actively engage in their community.

A parenting program that seeks to intervene in families identified as being at risk of social isolation could have unexpected outcomes in terms of connecting families to each other and delivering not only benefits to the children involved but also to the parents themselves in terms of their social supports.

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