Investing in prevention

We all want a future where every child feels safe, secure and supported. But as the cost of living crisis bites, more families are being pushed to breaking point and more vulnerable children are being put at risk.

With the final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care expected imminently, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen families and invest in early intervention. We must seize this moment to transform children’s lives for the better.

To support the launch of the Review, NCB has worked with our academic partners to showcase the latest research on children’s social care. This new and robust evidence demonstrates that investing in prevention, including family support and early help, can reduce demand for more expensive crisis support later on. It also leads to better services overall.

Rarely has the case for early investment been so clearly articulated.

Evidence showed a positive impact

Building on our report ‘Supporting and strengthening families through early help - A rapid review of evidence', published in June 2021, the National Children’s Bureau spoke to academic researchers about emerging evidence on the association between expenditure on children’s services, poverty and children’s social care demand.

This evidence paper has been prepared independently by some of these researchers to provide an up-to-date summary of this evidence now that it has been published in, or accepted for publication in, peer-reviewed journals.

This evidence shows that increased spending on children’s social care preventative services (including family support and early help) has a positive impact on:

  • Ofsted judgements
  • Numbers of Children in Need
  • Rates of 16 to 17-year-olds starting periods in care.

However, the distribution of local authority spending on prevention has become increasingly less well matched to need.

The evidence paper also reports two recent papers that reinforce the contributory causal relationship between family poverty and levels of child abuse and neglect and demand for children’s social care services, including rates of entry to care.

The evidence paper concludes with a brief summary of further contextual research on the association between household income and intervention, and on systems-thinking in children’s social care.

About the Evidence Paper

The Paper was produced as part of the Living Assessments programme - a collaboration between NCB, the University of Cambridge and the University of Kent, in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children and the British Association of Social Workers. The project is made possible by a major, five-year investment from the Wellcome Trust.