Early Help Special Report

At the time of writing, a Conservative leadership contest is underway, and we expect the new Prime Minister and cabinet will be announced soon. Therefore, it feels important to repeat the need for long term investment in early help and prevention services for children and families.

There is no doubt that the earlier we work with children and families to help them overcome the issues they face, the less impact these challenges will have on their lives and on society. The Early Intervention Foundation estimates billions of pounds are spent by a number of public sector agencies on late intervention every year, yet the human cost of late intervention is much greater.

Local authorities are committed to supporting children and families at the earliest possible opportunity before they reach crisis point, and good work is happening up and down the country, however, there is currently not enough funding in the system to enable this approach in all local authorities. Funding for early intervention should be long term, sustainable and equitable and not based on the quality of a bid.

Analysis published in July from a coalition of children’s charities reveals deep cuts to early intervention services whilst demand for children’s services is increasing. Local authorities must spend on statutory child protection services where need exists, this means tough decisions must be made about the very services that tackle the root causes of the issues families face, like children’s centres and family support, these services also reduce future demand. We are now seeing the impact on statutory services of short-term decisions councils were forced to make during austerity. This is a false economy and not in the best interests of children and families.

The previous Spending Review gave us greater clarity until 2025 around vital funding for the Supporting Families Programme which is increasingly central to the early help offer in a growing number of local authorities. Similarly, recent investment in Family Hubs is a step in the right direction, but we need long term solutions to ensure all children and families can benefit from earlier support when they need it. And we need to ensure Family Hubs don’t become everything to everyone, diluting the impact they could have.

The new Prime Minister will have many competing priorities, but investing in children, the future of our country, must be at the top. Investing in earlier intervention to support children and families is not only the right thing to do, as is reducing, and ultimately ending, child poverty in this country, a key driver of demand for children’s social care, it represents smart fiscal policy. Parenting is much harder to do when you are worried about how you are going to feed and keep your children warm and in the coming months more families will be facing significant financial pressures.

The independent review of children’s social care provides an opportunity to shift the dial on how and when we spend on children and families in this country and gives an indication of how much is needed to reset the system. We stand ready to work with the new government to put children first.


This coluimn was first published in CYP Now Magazine - Early Help Special Report Policy Context | CYP Now

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