Public services should be 'preventer of problems' say early help experts

Joe Lepper
Monday, April 13, 2015

A group of political analysts, including a former adviser to David Cameron, is calling on the next government to prioritise early intervention as a matter of urgency.

The latest report from Community Links-led group Early Action Task Force argues that Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have so far failed to effectively promote the importance of intervening earlier to support families and children.

Among the contributors to the report, called One Hundred Days For Early Action is Danny Kruger, who worked for Cameron in opposition and now runs Only Connect, a charity for people at risk of offending, calls for the public sector to shift to being a “preventer” of problems rather than clearing them up.

Kruger puts forward an argument for a “public sector that saves money tomorrow by using money intelligently today”.

Also being proposed, by London School of Economics (LSE) Professor Anne Power, is an extension of the Troubled Families initiative with the creation of a Troubled Youth programme, focusing on one-to-one and group support to tackle issues such as youth unemployment and housing issues.

Another to contribute to the report is Professor Richard Layard, also from the LSE. He proposes an overhaul of mental health support for parents and children with a strong focus on combating postnatal depression and the early signs of challenging childhood behaviour.

Community Links founder and chair of the taskforce, David Robinson said: “The support which has been expressed by the three main political parties for the principle of early action isn’t enough – it’s time for all political leaders to commit to adopting a preventative approach in their manifesto promises and then turn those words into action in government.

“The case for change is stark – the public sector was designed to deliver reactive, acute services, targeted on occasional, exceptional need. The need is now neither occasional nor exceptional: more people need more help. The demand for acute public services is rising but the money to pay for them just isn’t there.”

Other contributors to the report include Carey Oppenheim, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation.

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