I recently attended a Westminster Briefing – Early Intervention: Acting Early to Prevent a Life of Crime. It was an informative brief as to the way policy will move to make best use of resources. I was particularly impressed by Assistant Commissioner Ian McPherson (Met Police & ACPO Children and Young People Lead) making the business case for Early Years work. It has to be the case that when we understand that if children do not have “good enough” parenting, then we have to intervene to support families. The crucial brain development in the first years depends on a responsive adult to mirror behaviour. This early development determines our ability to become resilient, emotionally competent adults, able to act and react, with empathy and with understanding of others. There is a clear link between early interventions in the early years and the effects of long term parental AND professional neglect, in the pathway towards anti-social behaviour and youth crime.
It often seems that as a society we do not care enough about all our children. Those of us lucky enough to have received “good enough” parenting, are capable, surely, to recognise that those who do not, are hugely disadvantaged in life. Or do we simply need to understand more widely how the adult mind is formed? Once we understand that process, it seems perverse if we fail to support the actions needed to prevent the predictable descent into addiction, crime and chronic ill-health. Morally, financially, or simply acting in our own narrow interest, there is a clear case to support both understanding, and providing good support. Our knowledge must drown out those who seek the punative way. It has not worked in the past and it has no chance of working in the future. We need to hold people to account for their actions, whilst keeping in mind the framework of what lies behind the behaviour.
My concern is that as a professional group we risk failing to make the right calls. We must fully take account that some of the work that has been done in the past may not have provided what is needed. Some managers and professionals have, perhaps, become too caught up with the tools of managerialism. Our role is to care for, and about the lives of children. It is a human role, not a mechanistic one.
We cannot now afford to become defensive and negative in our own behaviour. Our role is to seek out new ways of working, to actively become re-energised and engaged. We need again to become emotionally re-skilled, to have confidence in our work with families and to take time to analyse and reflect on the work we are tasked with.