Early intervention is the key

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THE importance of early intervention was brought to the fore at a recent conference hosted by Scottish Borders Council.

Over 180 individuals representing a wide range of public, voluntary and community sectors, including the police and NHS Borders, came together recently at Eildon Mill in Galashiels with a shared vision - to look at how they can work together effectively to improve the lives of individuals and families across the Borders.

The project entitled ‘Prevention and Early Intervention’ has been initiated by SBC and the conference was the first of a series of planned events to emphasise the importance of providing support at the earliest possible stage in an individual’s life in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Addressing those in attendance, David Hume, chief executive of SBC explained: “Our aim is to start to discuss the challenges, possibilities and importance of collaborative working to make communities better and residents safer within them.

“We are all faced with several big challenges today including how we can make our scarce resources go further while giving early intervention and prevention a higher, more coherent focus. I hope this will be a milestone event in history of our joint working – by starting this discussion, I hope we will eventually be able to deliver to the people that we collectively serve.”

Two keynote speakers for the day were Dr Harry Burns, chief medical officer (CMO) for Scotland and detective chief superintendent John Carnochan QPM FFPH, from Strathclyde Police and co-founder of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit.

Dr Burns spoke of his intellectual journey over the years trying to understand Scotland’s health. His presentation focused on medical and statistical evidence which supported the view that what happens to babies as they grow and develop directly affects how they behave as they grow up into adulthood.

In order to resolve the issues, he explained that it is important to focus on how the public and voluntary sectors work closer together.

He said: “In the early years, depending on the kind of environment we live in, we should develop a sense of coherence of the world. If we don’t see the social and physical environment as understandable, manageable and meaningful - the individual will experience chronic stress which affects the development of the brain which has significant influence on their behaviour and social outcomes as they grow up.

“Everyone has capacity to change their minds – but in order to change; people have to be given the opportunity to re-define themselves as a person. People living in difficult circumstances often don’t think they are in control of their lives but they can be helped to realise, the life they lead is not necessarily the life they have to lead.

“We can intervene early in life and in doing so we can change the landscape of the future for Scotland. The fundamental part of this process is the care we show to other individuals who are in trouble rather than sticking to rules and protocols.”

John Carnochan QPM FFPH, co-founder of the Violence Reduction Unit, echoed Dr Harry Burns’ argument and commented: “At the end of the day - children are being neglected in almost every street in the UK. This is a shared problem and a shared issue - we can’t get away from it.

“We all need to aspire to get to the place where public services never fail. We are often terrified to do anything unless we can guarantee success – we need to have a go at what we know is right.

“We need to aspire to do the right thing. Never mind the process stuff – look at outcomes – not processes. We are all trying to head in same direction – we are all trying to make communities better and the people safer within them.

“Scottish Borders Council and its key agencies are definitely moving in the right direction by starting to have a conversation about collaborative working and the importance of prevention in the early years.

“I will be delighted to work with the Borders further on this project going forward.”

A second conference is scheduled to take place in June.