Early help by local authorities has been a casualty of government spending cuts, according to children charities the Children's Society and National Children's Bureau (NCB).
BBC News reports that the two charities estimate nearly £2 billion in funding has been cut over the last five years – which potentially will damage young lives and result in a greater cost to the taxpayer later.
Early intervention funding is used by Local Authorities to intervene when a child is at risk or is vulnerable – and includes advice on teenage pregnancy, drugs and alcohol, as well as help from children's centres and early years services.
The government has claimed that it has actually increased early intervention funding – which used to be called an early intervention grant.
However, the report Cuts that cost: Trends in funding for early intervention services suggests that government funding for a range of early help services across England fell from £3.2bn in 2010 to £1.4bn in 2015.
A Freedom of Information request by the publication Children & Young People Now suggests that reductions in spending for children's centres and services will continue in 2015-2016.
However, funding for the Troubled Families programme – which provides funds to help the most vulnerable families in society – is expected to increase or remain stable.
Social workers and child protection officers say that there is a possible link between a rise in the number of child protection cases and the reduction in early intervention funding, however.
The report states:
“Levels of demand on the child protection and care systems can provide some indication of the effectiveness of services that work to support families struggling to care for their children – and prevent them reaching crisis point.”
Chief executive of the Children's Society, Matthew Reed, said:
“Early intervention and help for children of all ages improves their lives, stops damage – and prevents more costly remedial solutions in the subsequent few years.
“That's why we are calling on government to prioritise funding for early intervention and help for teenagers and children, to make sure councils can maintain these essential services as we enter another period of austerity.
“If we keep cutting early help now, it will cost us all dearly in the long run.”
A spokesman for the government said:
“Ensuring every child – regardless of their background – is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential is at the heart of this government's drive to provide real social justice.
“We have invested more than £2bn in early intervention services, including 15 hours of free childcare for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds – and enough funding to retain a national network of children's centres, which are helping a record number of parents.
“We have given councils the freedom to use their funds on those services most needed by their communities.
“The £448m Troubled Families programme has turned around the lives of 117,000 of the most complex families – working with up to 400,000 more families from this year, backed with a further £200m investment.”
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