Inquiry announced into how civil servants use evidence to design policy for at-risk children

Science and Technology Committee to assess quality and extent of research used in government interventions and early-years policy

Evidence suggests children who have adverse childhood experiences suffer poorer health in later life. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA 

By Tamsin.Rutter

26 Oct 2017

The Commons’ Science and Technology Committee today announced an inquiry into evidence-based early-years interventions, to address concerns about health policy makers failing to make use of research in this area.

The inquiry will look at the strength of the evidence linking adverse childhood experiences to long-term negative outcomes, particularly in mental health, and assess how that evidence is being used in policy making.


Committee chair Norman Lamb pointed to evidence from the US that had shown children who experience psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, or come from dysfunctional households, are more likely to suffer poor health in later life.

Lamb, a Liberal Democrat MP, said the committee was concerned that this kind of research may not be being used effectively by those creating health policy and early-years support arrangements. 

This concern was also raised in an Early Intervention Foundation report published in June, which highlighted a “significant gap between what is known to be effective from peer-reviewed studies and what is delivered in local child protection systems”.

Lamb added: “By truly understanding the effects of adverse childhood experiences we may be better prepared here in the UK to prevent and treat mental health conditions, and reduce other problems associated these experiences, including in education, employment and criminal justice. 

“Doing so would benefit at-risk children, adults affected by earlier bad experiences, the NHS and, ultimately, UK taxpayers.” 

The committee has called for written submissions on current research into adverse childhood experiences and how they relate to negative outcomes in later life, relevant interventions in education, health and social care, and how the existing research is used and supported by government. 

It has also asked for information about gaps in the evidence base, the quality of existing research, the challenges in using or disseminating the latest evidence and the support and oversight of research in this area.

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