A report published today by the EIF assesses 75 early intervention programmes in the UK aimed at improving child outcomes. It found that 17 of them are well-evidenced, and a further 18 that have preliminary evidence of impact.
EIF chief executive Carey Oppenheim has warned that "too few early interventions have been tested in the UK".
"We still rely too much on evidence from other countries such as the USA and Australia which, whilst important, does not remove the need to test programmes as they operate and adapt for the demands of the UK," she said.
She called for greater focus on testing the effectiveness of early intervention work.
"Government and trusts and foundations should prioritise supporting much better testing, monitoring and evaluation of early intervention programmes and approaches, testing impacts over longer periods with a particular focus on voluntary organisations who struggle to find the funding to assess their impact," she said.
The EIF report found that well-evidenced interventions can be effective in enhancing development and tackling behavioural and speech and language problems in children. They can also prevent mental health problems and improve attainment in school.
The strongest outcomes were found in programmes that target early signs of risk, rather than universal programmes.
"There are a number of early signals of risk during children's early development involving children's attachment security, behavioural self-regulation and early learning, to which early intervention programmes can effectively respond," the report states.
It adds that commissioners should consider the fit of programmes to their local population and available resources.
"Our review reveals there are a good number of well-evidenced programmes that if carefully commissioned and implemented are likely to be effective," Oppenheim said.
"Reduced funding in local authorities and other local services makes it more critical to use the best evidence available to inform commissioning decisions."