One child in 20 has a severe behavioural problem. This often has a devastating impact on a child's future, greatly increasing the risk of suicide, poor health, unemployment and crime.
Early onset conduct problems have identifiable and, in many cases, preventable risk factors. And there is increasingly strong evidence of the effectiveness of well-designed, family- and school-based early intervention programmes.
Effective parenting interventions have been found to cost about £1,200 for each child and to create benefits of £225,000 over the lifetime of a child with severe conduct problems (see A Chance to Change, pg 14-16).
Despite the undoubted benefits, both for individuals and for society as a whole, the availability of these programmes falls well short of what is needed and the quality of services is very variable.
A range of barriers hinder their provision. For example, programmes are not always compliant with what we know works. Many fail to target those who need them most. Take-up rates are low and drop-out rates are high. In short, there is a sizeable gap between the promise of research and the reality of current practice in the effort to transform the life chances of thousands of children with early conduct problems.
The Centre has received funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to bridge this gap and find out how to make the best use of proven parenting programmes.
The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded our two-year programme of research and development, which began in April 2011. We planned to analyse the key constraints on the delivery of effective interventions and collaborate with families, practitioners, providers and commissioners to work up practical means of improvement.
The key focus throughout will be on how to improve the implementation and delivery of evidence-based programmes.
The first part of the study of the implementation of parenting programmes and aimed to identify and analyse the main barriers and enablers associated with their effective delivery.
The report based on the findings of phase one, A Chance to Change, is the most comprehensive review of the implementation of parenting programmes to date. It calls for the government to spearhead a national campaign to raise public and professional awareness of childhood conduct problems and do more to support well-implemented and evidence-based early interventions. It finds that the majority of parents whose children have behavioural problems ask for help, usually from GPs or teachers, but few receive the support that can make a difference. In many areas the number of evidence-based programmes is not sufficient to meet need.
These programmes represent outstanding value for money over the course of a child's life paying for themselves many times over in public expenditure savings and wider economic benefits.
Building on the findings in A Chance to Change, we will conduct a follow-up project over the next 12 months that will seek to develop practical tools to support commissioners, managers and providers in strengthening the delivery of evidence-based programmes.
This work is now complete, with the publication of the reports Building a better future and Wanting the best for my children, nine briefings on childhood behavioural problems and a video showing parents what parenting programmes are like.