NCAS Conference: Labour government would reform commissioning of children's health

Neil Puffett
Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Labour government would radically change the way services for children are commissioned in order to spur heavy investment in early intervention, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has announced.

Andy Burnham says Labour would radically change the way children's services are commissioned. Image: Alex Deverill
Andy Burnham says Labour would radically change the way children's services are commissioned. Image: Alex Deverill

Speaking at the annual National Children and Adult Services conference in Harrogate, Burnham said that all too often local authorities and health services are engaged in “meaningless arguments” over who benefits financially from investment in early intervention.

“No single agency has an incentive to invest in early intervention, even though we all know the evidence,” he told delegates.

“The consequences of this ‘pick up the pieces’ approach to public spending can be seen in many different ways.

“Around seven of every 10 young people in the criminal justice system suffer from an undiagnosed mental health problem.

“The failure to prioritise prevention is becoming a crisis of the 21st century.”

Burnham said Labour would strive to introduce “single budget commissioning” that would result in work such as early years services, health visiting being delivered alongside work such as speech and language therapy, and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

“We will set out a vision for whole person care – one team working around the person based on single budget commissioning,” he said.

“Personalisation has often been presented as part of a choice and competition agenda, but I believe we can offer more advanced options of choice and control.

“Through health and wellbeing boards, we could have single budget commissioning for children and adults.

“Building this one-team approach will require a lot of culture change among professionals.

“It won’t happen overnight, but it is a journey we need to start. We can’t afford silo-based thinking anymore. It won’t deliver better results."

Burnham said that under current thinking, there would be a single budget in each locality covering both children and adult services.

“If all savings from prevention return to the same pot, there is a strong chance it might actually happen. Separate pots and budgets do not create an incentive to invest in prevention. That is why single budget commissioning is so important.”

Most recent figures for predicted local government spending in 2013/14 show that early intervention services are continuing to be cut.

The biggest decrease in spending comes in the Sure Start and early years funding category, which is down nearly 15 per cent to £1.09bn.

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