Staging early interventions to stop young people going off the rails and getting into serious difficulties could save £1.7bn a year, a coalition of more than 50 leading charities say.
The next government should set up a ring-fenced fund to tackle social problems early and stop young people’s lives being ruined by mental health problems, bad parenting and antisocial behaviour, the campaigners argue.
The charities – including Barnardo’s, NSPCC, Action for Children, Women’s Aid and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations – say that a failure to intervene in social problems at an early stage creates crises which are much more expensive to solve in the long run.
They estimate that failure to intervene early in social problems is costing £17bn a year – a 10th of which could be saved by establishing an early intervention investment fund.
Such a fund would award money over the life of the next Parliament to councils, schools, healthcare providers and other groups which could prove they had ambitious early intervention plans.
“A new government will need to find funds urgently to address these issues,” they write in the letter published on independent.co.uk today. “It also has a moral duty to do more than just pick up the pieces only when things go wrong.
“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 these children’s lives before it is too late.”
Whoever forms the government after Thursday’s general election must also start measuring how much is already being spent on early intervention. This is not measured at the moment, making it difficult to shift resources, they argue.
Analysis by the Early Intervention Foundation has assessed the effectiveness of existing programmes and aims to encourage more councils and groups to adopt successful schemes. Those judged to be successful include Multisystemic Therapy (MST), which has been found to improve the functioning of problem families, reduce youth offending and cut the number of young people being taken into council care.
Under the programme, therapists provide individual and family therapy to troubled youngsters aged 12 to 17 and their parents over four to six months.
Another scheme is Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (Paths), a school-based programme which has been found to reduce children’s aggressive behaviour in the classroom through a specific curriculum of activities.
Carey Oppenheim, EIF’s chief executive, said: “Taking action as soon as possible to tackle problems for children, young people and their families before they become more difficult to reverse is more crucial than ever.
“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 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.
Carey Oppenheim, Chief Executive, Early Intervention Foundation
Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive, 4 Children
Vivienne Evans, Chief Executive, Adfam
Professor Sonia Blandford, Chief Executive, Achievement for All & Professor of Education and Social Enterprise, UCL Institute of Education.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, Chief Executive, Action for Children
Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Barnardo’s
Naomi Delap, Director, Birth Companions
Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair, British Association for Counselling and Therapy
Chris Wright, Chief Executive, Catch 22
Gracia McGrath OBE, Chief Executive, Chance UK
Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive, Centre for Criminal Justice
Christian Guy, Director, Centre for Social Justice
Stephen Lee, Chief Executive, Centreforum
Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, CIPFA
David Robinson, Co-founder, Community Links
Anne Fox, Director, Communication Trust
Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive, Depression Alliance
Andrew Harrop, General Secretary, Fabians
David Holmes CBE, Chief Executive, Family Action
Dave Edmundson, Chair, Family Health and Wellbeing Consortium
Stephen Dunmore, Interim Chief Executive, Family and Childcare Trust
Adrienne Burgess, Joint Chief Executive, Fatherhood Institute
Frances Crook, Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
Mary Hartshorne, Director of Outcomes and Information, ICAN
Daniela Barone Soares, Chief Executive, Impetus PEF
Angela Morgan, Chief Executive, Includem
Judy Moore, Member, Infant and Toddler Forum
Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder and Chief Executive, Kids Company
Julian Corner, Chief Executive, Lankelly Chase Foundation
Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive, London Youth
Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation
Michael O’Toole, Chief Executive, Mentor UK
John Diamond, Chief Executive, Mulberry Bush
Jacob Tas, Chief Executive, NACRO
John Tierney, Director, National Association for Therapeutic Education
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau
Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Jonathan Douglas, Director, National Literacy Trust
Jonathan Breckon, Head of the Alliance for Useful Evidence, NESTA
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive, NSPCC
Catherine Roche, Chief Executive, Place2Be
Joe Hayman, Chief Executive, PSHE association
Dr Carrie Herbert MBE, President, Red Balloon
Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Susanna Abse, Chief Executive, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships
Brett Wigdortz OBE, Founder and Chief Executive, Teach First
Alison Hadley, Director, Teenage Pregnancy Exchange
Tim Morfin, Chief Executive, TLG The Education Charity
Danny Kruger, Chief Executive, West London Zone for Children and Young People
Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive, Young Minds