Introduction: scope and purpose of this guidance

What is this guidance about?

This guidance aims to define how the social and emotional wellbeing of vulnerable children aged under 5 years can be supported through home visiting, childcare and early education. The recommendations cover:

  • strategy, commissioning and review

  • identifying vulnerable children and assessing their needs

  • ante- and postnatal home visiting for vulnerable children and their families

  • early education and childcare

  • delivering services.

This guidance does not cover the clinical treatment of emotional and behavioural difficulties or mental health conditions, or the role of child protection services.

Who is this guidance for?

The guidance is for all those responsible for ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of children aged under 5 years. This includes those planning and commissioning children's services in local authorities (including education), the NHS, and the community, voluntary and private sectors. It also includes: GPs, health visitors, midwives, psychologists and other health practitioners, social workers, teachers and those working in all early years settings (including childminders and those working in children's centres and nurseries).

The guidance may also be of interest to parents, other family members and the general public.

Why is this guidance being produced?

The Department of Health (DH) asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce this guidance.

The guidance should be implemented alongside other guidance and regulations (for more details see section 4 on implementation).

How was this guidance developed?

The recommendations are based on the best available evidence. They were developed by the Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee (PHIAC). Members of PHIAC are listed in appendix A.

The guidance was developed using the NICE public health intervention process. See appendix B for details.

Supporting documents used to prepare this document are listed in appendix E.

What evidence is the guidance based on?

The evidence that PHIAC considered included: 2 reviews of the evidence on effectiveness, a review of risk factors, economic modelling, the testimony of expert witnesses and commissioned reports. Further detail on the evidence is given in the considerations section (section 3) and appendices B and C.

In some cases, the evidence was insufficient and PHIAC has made recommendations for future research.

More details of the evidence on which the guidance is based, and NICE's process for developing public health guidance, are on the NICE website.

Status of this guidance

The guidance complements, but does not replace, NICE guidance on: child maltreatment; pregnancy and complex social factors; antenatal and postnatal mental health; mental health disorders in children; looked-after children and young people; and the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)