Practical support for preventing gang and youth violence

The Early Intervention Foundation has released two new reports on gang and youth violence, based on international evidence. The authors emphasise the importance of early intervention and of providing high-quality, evidence-based support to children and young people at risk of involvement, delivered in the right way by the right people.

The first report looks to identify who is potentially at risk of involvement in gangs or youth violence. Findings are grouped into five domains – individual, peer group, community, school, and family – with the strongest risk factors associated with the individual. This includes behavioural risk factors (eg, violent activity, exposure to and consumption of drugs and alcohol) and explanatory risk factors (eg, psychological issues such as symptoms of ADHD, hyperactivity, self-esteem, levels of aggression, and an inability to say no to peer pressure). The likelihood of involvement increased in line with the number of risk factors.

The second report identifies what types of programmes or interventions appear to be most effective in preventing involvement. Skills-based and family-focused programmes were found to be amongst the most robustly evaluated and effective types of programme. Mentoring, community-based, and sports-based programmes to tackle youth crime and violence appeared promising, but have a limited evidence base. In contrast, approaches based on deterrence and discipline (eg, boot camps) were ineffective, and may even make things worse (eg, increase the likelihood of offending).

Sources: Preventing Gang and Youth Violence: A Review of Risk and Protective Factors (2015), Early Intervention Foundation, and What Works to Prevent Gang Involvement, Youth Violence and Crime: A Rapid Review of Interventions Delivered in the UK and Abroad (2015), Early Intervention Foundation.

Three reports support the value of social-emotional learning

Commissioned by the Early Intervention Foundation, the Cabinet Office, and the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, three new reports look at social-emotional learning in children and how it affects their adult lives. Data were gathered from the 1970 British Cohort Study.

A team from UCL (University College London) investigated whether, and how much, emotional skills developed in childhood matter during adult life. Their study indicated that development of self-control/self-regulation in childhood mattered most into adulthood. Self-perceptions/awareness and social skills were also important and emotional well-being contributed to mental well-being in adults. There was a lack of evidence on motivation and resilience.

In the second report, researchers at the National University of Ireland, Galway, looked at evidence of the effectiveness of 39 in-school and 55 out-of-school social-emotional skills interventions in the UK. They reported strong evidence that well-evaluated in-school interventions (both primary and secondary) led to benefits for social-emotional competencies and educational outcomes. Targeted programmes for high-risk students, programmes for prevention of violence and substance abuse, and whole-school approaches that involved parents and the wider community were also found to be effective; the last was particularly effective for prevention of bullying.

Finally, ResearchAbility reported on issues raised by people who implement social-emotional learning and how these issues are viewed by policy makers at national and local levels. The report identified eight key challenges including:

  • Effective provision needed to deliver the whole group of skills, not just focus on one or two characteristics.
  • Social-emotional learning provision should be available to all.
  • There was no systematic evaluation of interventions.
  • Skills and training of staff supporting social-emotional learning was important for ensuring quality provision.

An Early Intervention Foundation summary report considered that the three reports “indicate strongly that the social and emotional skills measured at age 10 turned out to be important signals of a flourishing or struggling child” but that “there are big gaps in advice for schools on what works.”

Source: Social and emotional learning: skills for life and work (2015), Early Intervention Foundation

What Works Centres for the UK

The UK government has launched the What Works Network – six independent institutions responsible for gathering, assessing, and sharing the most robust evidence to inform policy and service delivery in health, education, crime, promoting active and independent ageing, effective early intervention, and fostering local economic growth. The network includes a number of existing organisations:

  • The What Works Centre for Improving Education Outcomes for School-aged Children will be the Education Endowment Foundation.
  • The What Works Centre for Early Intervention will be provided by the recently formed Early Intervention Foundation.
  • The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will provide the What Works Centre for health.

Other centres will be set up in the coming months.

Invest early, but use evidence

Researchers from the NFER have been looking at early intervention, that is, approaches delivered “early in the life of a problem, or when children are younger”. This study, which is the fourth in a series for the Local Government Association, found that such approaches can have greater benefits in the long term and therefore be more cost effective.

But it highlighted the need for programmes to be evidence-based, and for these to be delivered with fidelity to the programme’s design. The authors emphasise that more work is needed to improve the evidence that is available, especially information about cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Department for Education has announced the next steps in the creation of the Early Intervention Foundation, which will provide advice and support on issues relating to early intervention.

Source: Early intervention: informing local practise (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research