£17bn spent on ‘late interventions’ for children

12 Feb 15
Public services spend almost £17bn a year on addressing the impact of a host of social problems affecting young people, a study by the Early Intervention Foundation has found.

By Richard Johnstone | 11 February 2015

Public services spend almost £17bn a year on addressing the impact of a host of social problems affecting young people, a study by the Early Intervention Foundation has found.


Its analysis concluded that spending on areas including children in care, unemployment and mental health could be tackled if more was done to address the root causes of such problems, rather than trying to mitigate the impact in later years.

Today’s Spending on late intervention report said the annual cost of looking after children in care in the public sector was £5bn, while £4bn was spent on benefits for 18-24-year-olds not in education, employment or training. A further £900m is used to help young people suffering from mental health issues or battling drug and alcohol problems.

Council services pick up the largest share of this ‘late intervention’ spending, at £6.5bn, followed by welfare spending of £3.7bn and £3bn in the NHS.

Publishing the analysis, EIF chief executive Carey Oppenheim said public services ‘remain increasingly geared towards picking up the pieces from the harmful and costly consequences of failure’.

A switch to early intervention could improve lives as well as helping to control public spending by reducing pressures on health services and the welfare system, she said.

The next government should set a target to reduce these costs by 10% by the end of the next parliament through an expansion of early intervention schemes. These include parenting support, youth offending prevention programmes and children and young people’s mental health services.

‘As a nation, this is something we can no longer afford to ignore,’ Oppenheim added.

‘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.

‘Whoever forms the next government must place the next generation of children, young people and their families at the heart of its policies. A long-term national and local commitment to prioritising and investing in early intervention will not only save money but will give children the best chance of thriving.’

Today’s report also called for better co-ordination across Whitehall, local agencies and local communities to ensure existing funding is spent better through pooled spending, such as Community Budgets, with more joined-up commissioning that focuses on children’s outcomes.

Oppenheim added that health and wellbeing boards and community safety partnerships needed to ensure funding was prioritised amid spending cuts.

Responding to the report, CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said early intervention played a critical role in helping vulnerable children and young people to thrive.

‘CIPFA has championed early intervention for a long time.  There is a growing body of evidence for the public pound multiplier effect, for example, showing that every £1 spent on public health prevention would save the NHS as much as five to six times that amount,’ he said.

‘The same principles apply to the damaging results of social disadvantage. So it is paramount that public services have the courage to take the long view and focus on helping communities with investment up front, delivering better social outcomes and savings to public expenditure in the long run.’

David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said councils recognised the benefits of early intervention.

‘The trouble is that funding streams based on departmental silos mean that too often the savings from investment by one agency are recouped by another, resulting in disincentives to invest in early intervention,’ he added.

‘Rather than an incentivised fund, which councils would have to use much-needed resource bidding for, it is essential that this money is available flexibly to local communities where it can be most effectively put to use.’


CIPFA logo

PF Jobsite logo

Did you enjoy this article?