A coalition of more than 50 leading charities has called on the next government to prioritise early interventions to prevent children from going off the rails.
Establishing a ring-fenced fund to tackle social problems early and stop people's lives being ruined by mental health problems, bad parenting and antisocial behaviour could save £1.7 billion a year, the charities claim in a letter to the Independent.
Failing to intervene early to prevent problems developing further down the line creates crises that are more expensive to deal with in the long run, resulting in costs of around £17 billion per year.
However, as much as a tenth of this could be saved by establishing the fund, which would provide money for councils, schools and healthcare providers that were able to prove they had ambitious early intervention plans.
"If families and children are supported earlier, fewer children will need to be taken into care, be excluded from school, develop mental health problems or commit crimes," the charities write in the letter.
"We must support them from the earliest stage to nurture the skills they need to cope with life’s challenges and flourish. We must transform these children’s lives before it is too late."
The charities also say measurement of early intervention programmes needs to be implemented, as the failure to do so makes it difficult to shift resources.
One intervention scheme identified as successful by the Early Intervention Foundation is Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, which aims to reduce problem behaviour in the classroom through a specific curriculum of activities.
Multisystemic Therapy is another useful technique, which has improved the functioning of problem families, cut youth offending and reduced the number of young people being taken into council care.
This initiative involves therapists providing individual and family therapy for troubled youngsters and their parents over the course of four to six months.
Posted by Harriet McGowan