State urged to invest more in early childhood intervention

The State has been urged to invest more in early childhood intervention schemes in disadvantaged areas — a move which would save the country money in the long-term.

The call came yesterday at a national conference in Cork organised by Young Knocknaheeny (YK) — a pioneering childhood programme on the northside of Cork City funded by the Government and Atlantic Philanthropies.

Set up in early 2015, the community prevention and early intervention programme works on the development of babies, children, families, and the community to give all children the best possible start in life.

Children who grow up in disadvantage and experience adversity in their early years are at much greater risk than their peers of lifelong poor outcomes in their physical and mental health as well as their social, educational, and economic achievement.

YK works to improve the lives of all children in the area — from pre-birth to age six — and their families to enhance the skills of parents and others who come into the lives of the children.

It also identifies potential developmental concerns much earlier and sets out to tackle them.

Over the last two years, YK has engaged with 2,500 children, 450 parents, 310 practitioners, and worked in partnership with over 40 services.

YK brought experts, policy makers and practitioners together for a national conference yesterday to discuss how the State could do more to ensure that all children get the best possible start in life.

Professor Anthony Staines, the chair of health systems at Dublin City University’s School of Nursing and Human Sciences, told the conference investment in early childhood programmes pays off in the long-term.

“The dominant cost of child poverty is lost opportunities — programmes like Young Knocknaheeny are superb investments that pay for themselves many times over,” he said.

YK manager Katherine Harford said there is an acceptance of the need to shift resources from crisis management in social and health services to prevention and early intervention.

But she said in reality, the investments are piecemeal and the policy needs a more secure finance and strategic footing.


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