Local authorities are waiting too long to intervene in children’s problems, at a total cost of nearly £17bn per year, according to a report by the Early Intervention Foundation.
Published today, Spending on Late Intervention, revealed councils spend £6.5bn on intervening late through child protection orders and taking children into care. Late interventions, as defined in the report, refer to acute statutory services required when children and young people experience significant difficulties, as well as welfare benefits.
By combining the quantity of acute services – such as the number of child protection plans and children defined as ‘in need’ – and a unit cost for providing it, the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) estimated that intervening late costs society £16.6bn.
This covers the total financial costs incurred by local government, health, police and welfare services in England and Wales.
The EIF is now challenging local and central government to reduce late intervention spending by £1.7bn through smarter investment in early intervention. Key to this, the report stated, is ensuring public agencies are better able to pool budgets and share information about their local communities.
“While a detailed ‘bottom-up’ estimate of spending on early intervention has never been collated, the estimates that do exist suggest that such spending represents a fraction of the amount spent on late intervention,” the report stated.
Frontline workers need to be properly equipped to shift spending, the report argues, while early intervention needs to be emphasised as being relevant to all professionals who work with children and families.
Good practice was highlighted in Cheshire West and Chester, Essex and Croydon, however, with the authorities praised for delivering a joined-up and effective approach to early intervention.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said the report is a “stark reminder” of the human cost of preventable social problems. “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,” he said.
At an EIF conference held today, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced the Department for Education would invest £8.5m from the innovation fund into new projects.
The money will be split between three projects: a pilot for a new residential home that helps teenagers and families through crisis periods; new evidence-based programmes from Action for Children to help children on the edge of care in three councils to stay with their families; support to over 70 councils across the country from the National Implementation Service.