Interview: Professor Leon Feinstein

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Early Intervention Foundation's interim head of evidence, and visiting professor at the London School of Economics Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion.

Professor Feinstein previously worked at the Cabinet Office's Implementation Unit as chief analyst and at the Treasury's Performance and Reform Unit.

Why did you decide to join the Early Intervention Foundation?

The programme of work involved in trying to ensure that babies and children are given the best possible start in life is an important social and economic challenge. I want to help set up the Foundation from the start and lay the solid groundwork that we will build on in years to come.

It's also a great opportunity to work with some very talented and motivated people, across an important body of practice and science, including childcare professionals, and child development experts and practitioners.

What does the role involve?

My job is to advocate for the more widespread availability of early intervention programmes, to determine the best available and their relative value for money, and advise local service commissioners, service providers and potential investors on the best practical evidence-based measures. This will mean that they can make the best possible choices for supporting children and families in their communities.

In what way will you be drawing on your previous experience?

I have worked both as an academic and civil servant. From the first I will bring experience of academic rigour and the support of learning; from the second, experience of delivery through complex systems, pace and dealing with demanding customers.

Why is early intervention so vital?

As head of evidence, my job is to test the very plausible hypothesis that it is financially more affordable for areas to spend a greater proportion of budgets on early intervention than to wait for problems to hit, when a relatively high proportion of those who needed early support have difficult transitions to adulthood. I am sure that your readers, like me, recognise the importance of getting things right from the start in early years development.

We know that many of the elements of the approach work but can it all be brought to scale, in communities across England, now? If so, we can support people to improve their lives in tough times, improve community life and not only save money but leverage additional investment through new financial models.

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