Study reveals cost benefits of Finnish anti-bullying programme

By Joe Lepper

| 30 August 2017

A study by Public Health England has found that an initiative, which originated in Finland to support young people and counter the impacts of bullying, delivers a return of £1.58 for every pound invested.

An anti-bullying initiative developed in Finland has been tested in three schools in England and 14 in Wales. Picture: Shutterstock.com

The KiVa programme is used in more than 90 per cent of schools among pupils aged between seven and 16 in Finland and has also been tested by three schools in England and 14 in Wales as part of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) lessons.

It focuses on reducing the incentives for bullying, through group work with children around promoting empathy and the positive changes in their lives by not bullying their peers. KiVA also contains support for bullied pupils from teachers and their peers.

Analysis in a Public Health England report on the commissioning of services to promote mental health and wellbeing found that it has been particularly effective in reducing cyber bullying.

The analysis found that the programme's cost of £4,658 for every 200 children over a four-year period delivered a saving of £1,037 and a return on investment (ROI) per pound of £1.58.

Savings are achieved through reducing the need for specialist support for victims, such as those provided by child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and lessening the risk of pupil absenteeism and self-harm.

"There are additional benefits of great importance to the education sector including educational achievements, school atmosphere and reputation that we have not been able to place a monetary value on these impacts," the report states. 

Public Health England said the cost savings could be a conservative estimate as they are not taking into account long-term benefits to a young person by being free of bullying.

"There will be additional ongoing depression and psychosis treatment costs for some of these young people over many years," the report states. 

"Mental health problems in adulthood will also have further impacts, for instance on contact with the criminal justice system and poor physical health.
 
"Finally, the model is also conservative as future cohorts of children and young people would also benefit from the teachers trained to deliver KiVa.

"Factoring in all these extra favourable impacts would suggest that there is in fact a strong case to be made for these actions having a positive long-term ROI."

The Public Health England report also looks at the benefits of school-based social and emotional learning initiatives, with a close look at the Penn Resilience Programme, which aims to increase resilience and prevent depression through improving cognitive behavioural and problem-solving skills.

Taking into account costs such as absenteeism, this delivers an ROI of £5.05 for every pound invested, however, the report concedes there is a lack of evidence on the long-term impacts of such programmes.

Case Study: How emotional learning helps to stop bullying

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