Early support

Early support

A stitch in time saves nine.

As a society we instinctively know that some of us need a little 
more help than others from time to time. Mostly, though, our public services are only designed to offer support when problems reach 
a certain level, such as when a child is self-harming or when a parent 
is struggling with ill health.

However, offering help at this stage is usually more expensive and time-consuming. It can also only lessen the impact of issues that — in extreme cases such as those of child abuse or neglect — will continue to influence a person’s life long after the event has passed. But too often overstretched public services are only able to respond much later, after the main damage has already been done.

Early support, then, is a broad term describing practical ways of helping children and families to help themselves to overcome problems before they start. It means the right services to support new parents, help toddlers develop, educate young people, improve the wellbeing of teenagers or address signs of abuse and neglect as early as possible.

Our experience working directly with children and young people has given us numerous examples of early support preventing issues from worsening. However, it has also alerted us to too many children and young people who are suffering unnecessarily simply because no-one was able to help them earlier.

It costs £2,700 to teach a
child to read, but around
 £50,000 to support an adult who can't.

The Long-term Costs of Literacy Difficulties,

KPMG Foundation

We want the next Government to focus more on early support
 to help children, young people and their families.

1

More stability into children and family
 services – five year spending plans

Making five year funding commitments — from one election to the next — would allow the Government, local councils, and other service providers to make longer-term plans. Most importantly, children could stick with the same support staff as they grow old.

2

Help your local £ work – promote
 Community Budgets

Community Budgets allow providers of services to pool their budgets. This reduces waste and makes it easier to work together
 to help children. It’s a relatively new way of working, so the Government needs to support its development and promotion.

3

Show us what's
 happening – more accountability

With spending moved towards early support, we would like to see annual progress reports. Parliament should be involved in scrutiny through the Public Accounts Committee.

4

Acting early to avoid crisis – shift public money towards early intervention

There is so much evidence that acting early avoids expensive crises that it only 
makes sense to invest a bigger slice of our public money.

In recent years all major parties have signalled their commitment to the principle of Early Support.

"If we are to give every
 child the chance to live a
 happy and successful life
 we need to act early..."

—David Cameron

"If we can help youngsters stay out of care, and out of trouble, and out of jail, the social and economic benefits are huge. The long-term savings from helping the families with the deepest problems far outweigh the upfront cost."

—Nick Clegg

"Early Intervention to reduce the risks of passing disadvantage from generation to generation is a long-term project. It requires not just 'patient capital' but patient politics — including the commitment of all parties to realise the vision of an approach where we consistently help early enough in life to prevent problems in the first place."

—Ed Miliband