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The Government has announced it is to spend £8.5m on schemes to support children early on in their lives, rather than picking up the pieces later on.
Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, revealed the investment at the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) Conference, saying: “Prevention is always better than cure, and that’s why we have a moral mission to provide compassion and support as soon as problems emerge, and do all that we can to ensure that every single child in the country has an equal chance to succeed in life, no matter their background or family circumstances.”
She added: “Investing money into this area really is spending to save in the long run. Because at least one in four of the population experiences mental health problems at some point in their life.”
Her funding announcement comes in the wake of a report by the EIF report ‘Spending on Late Intervention’, which revealed the cost of picking up the pieces from damaging social problems affecting young people such as mental health problems, going into care, unemployment and youth crime is almost £17bn a year.
Analysis by the EIF shows almost a third of this bill came from the annual £5bn cost of looking after children in care.
An estimated further £4bn a year is spent on benefits for 18-24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) with another £900m spent helping young people suffering from mental health issues or battling drug and alcohol problems.
Carey Oppenheim, chief executive of the EIF, said: “Early Intervention is about helping a child before they go into care, commit a crime or are excluded from school. It is also about developing children’s social and emotional skills and resilience to enable them to navigate life’s difficulties.
“Reaching children and families earlier is not only right for children and young people, it is right for the economy too.
“Our research lays bare how much the Government spends each year tackling the social problems that Early Intervention is designed to prevent. Yet our public services remain increasingly geared towards picking up the pieces from the harmful and costly consequences of failure.
“As a nation, this is something we can no longer afford to ignore.”
The new EIF analysis shows council services (£6.5bn) are having to pick up the largest share of the national late intervention spend - followed by welfare costs of £3.7bn and the NHS at £3bn.
Nurseries have a 'huge role' to play
Davina Ludlow, director of daynurseries.co.uk, the leading guide to nurseries, is backing the EIF’s call for more targeted early intervention.
She said: “Early intervention is extremely important and goes a long way in helping to prepare our young people for what’s ahead.
“The first five years of a child’s life are vital in shaping the adult they will become. Nurseries and nursery schools have a huge role to play in identifying children with additional needs and offering or signposting parents and carers to the support they need.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, added: “This research puts a hard figure on the cost of waiting too long to help children and young people.
“It serves as a stark reminder of the great human cost of social problems that are all too often preventable if we act earlier. We must listen to children and young people about their experiences: what they say backs this impressive economic analysis.
“All of us, whether politician, public services or charities need to concentrate on providing targeted early support to children and young people. In many cases, this is the only way they will reach their potential.”
Early Intervention tackles social problems that risk long-term harm for children, their families and society. Although the approach can be used at any time of life, Early Intervention services - such as parenting support, youth offending prevention programmes and children and young people’s mental health services - are aimed at 0 to 19-year-olds.