Spending on prevention will save on the cure #Budget2015

In the last Budget before the general election earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne set out the Government’s spending plans for the next 12 months.

Amongst the big headlines focusing on growth forecasts, taxes and pensions there was an announcement which could make a big difference to the support available to some of the children, young people and families that Action for Children works with.

An additional £1.25 billion will be spent on mental health services, including those for children, young people and new and expectant mothers.

Action for Children knows from our work that investing more in supporting the emotional wellbeing of children and new mothers can make a difference that lasts a lifetime. As is the case with Budget announcements past and present, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, had already laid out some of the detail about this funding earlier in the week.

Mr Clegg said the government was committed to spending £250m a year over the next five years on CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). That amounts to £1.25bn over the next Parliament, helping more than 100,000 young people.

The Deputy Prime Minister also said that specialists in children’s talking therapy will be available in every part of the country by 2018. In our recent report, Too much, too young, Action for Children called for local authorities to provide the most vulnerable children and young people with therapeutic care placements which actively develop emotional wellbeing; address psychological trauma, and help them develop resilient and positive relationships.

Around 60% of looked after children have some level of mental health problem [1]

Many of the children we work with who have experienced care have emotional and mental health needs which are different to their peers. In their early lives they may have experienced abuse or neglect or have conflicting feelings towards their family. By acting early we can ensure they receive the right support before these experiences develop into mental health problems.

"They helped me with therapy skills so that I could live an easier happier everyday life. They helped sort out my emotions and relationships using mindfulness to deal with situations that may arise." (Young Person, Action for Children)

Children and families need early support to prevent crisis

More funding for this vital support is very welcome, but it also highlights the need to respond to a startling crisis in mental health provision for children and young people which has only recently made it to the top of the political agenda. For too long too many children, young people and new mothers have not been receiving early support which could help prevent mental health problems developing.

Mental health is just one area where Government must look at addressing need before children and young people reach crisis. There has to be a greater emphasis on early support across the board.   

The Local Government Association have reported that between the Government’s first Budget in 2010 and the end of the next financial year local authorities will have seen core funding from central government reduced by 40%. With further reductions to public sector funding on the way, it is now more important than ever that Government look at the way money is spent on vital services.

We need to see a fundamental shift towards spending on early support for children in families, which we know can save money in the long-run. Whoever forms the next Government must make a concerted effort to move away from late interventions responding only to crisis and focus more on preventing problems from escalating in the first place.

A stitch in time saves nine

Action for Children have been working with other leading children’s charities, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society and NSPCC, to call for a greater focus on early support in the next Parliament. We all know the difference it can make to children, just like Tom. He was desperately struggling at school due to problems at home, but with the right early support, these problems didn’t become too big to handle. Early help made a real difference. We want this for every child.

It’s time to rethink how we support families facing difficulty so their problems don’t escalate causing greater harm and costing public services more money. If you share our vision for children then why not click here to take action with us.

[1] Improving the mental health of Looked After Young People: An exploration of mental health stigma, Young Minds 

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