Ministers have ‘moral duty’ to prioritise early intervention

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The next government has a “moral duty” to invest in early intervention and prevention, a coalition of leading charities has said.

Led by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), the charities are calling for a dedicated Early Intervention Investment Fund tied to the life of the next Parliament.

An analysis by the EIF shows that the cost of tackling social problems affecting children and young people, including mental health, care, unemployment and youth crime, is in the region of £17 billion a year.

The coalition is now calling on ministers to set a target of a 10 per cent reduction in this figure by 2020, which it says can be achieved by effective early intervention.

Its proposal for an Early Intervention Investment Fund suggests that the money, which could be supplemented by private sector capital such as social investment, could be awarded to councils, healthcare providers, schools, voluntary groups and other organisations who could “prove they have ambitious plans to redesign local services around effective early intervention”.

An open letter from the coalition to the new government states: “We spend almost £17 billion a year fixing social problems affecting children and young people. But it is not enough to plaster over the cracks. We need to stop them happening in the first place.

“A new government will need to find funds urgently to address these issues as well as balance the nation’s books. It also has a moral duty to do more than just pick up the pieces only when things go wrong.”

Among those signing the letter are Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, and Sarah Brennan, chief executive of Young Minds.

Further organisations supporting the campaign include the PSHE Association, Action for Children, Women’s Aid, the National Children’s Bureau, and the National Literacy Trust.

Carey Oppenheim, chief executive of the EIF, said: “Our organisations are uniting to send a powerful message to whoever forms the new government. Prioritising and investing in early intervention will not only save money but will give a generation of children, young people and their families the best chance of thriving.

“The main political parties have rightly emphasised the need for early intervention and prevention in their manifestos and elsewhere. This indicates a serious cross-party commitment to shifting spending from late to early which should be a key priority for (the new) government.

“A long-term national commitment is needed to shift our public services away from picking up the pieces from the harmful and costly consequences of failure.

“To do this requires a different way of working – one which is built around the wellbeing of children and families rather than separate departments, funding streams and working in silos. We also need to use the best available evidence, focusing resources on support that actually makes a difference.”

For more information on the EIF, visit www.eif.org.uk

The letter in full

We spend almost £17 billion a year fixing social problems affecting children and young people. But it is not enough to plaster over the cracks. We need to stop them happening in the first place.

A new government will need to find funds urgently to address these issues as well as balance the nation’s books. It also has a moral duty to do more than just pick up the pieces only when things go wrong.

As we tragically see every day, the human cost, anguish and wasted potential of failing to intervene early can last a lifetime.

If families and children are supported earlier, fewer children will need to be taken into care, be excluded from school, develop mental health problems or commit crimes. We must support them from the earliest stage to nurture the skills they need to cope with life’s challenges and flourish. We must transform children’s lives before it is too late.

This means doing things differently. There needs to be a long-term commitment to early intervention. Agencies must work across boundaries and sectors so vulnerable children can be spotted early and the best evidence used to inform this area of work. We should prioritise spending on early intervention to avoid having to spend more when problems become crises.

Political parties have made early intervention or prevention promises in their manifestos. We want promises to be kept and will hold them to account. We are calling for the new government to commit to invest in effective early intervention for children to reduce the need for spending on late intervention by 10 per cent by 2020.

This is not only right for children, it is better for the economy.


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