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Towards Effective Prevention: Practical steps for the next Government

16 Jul 2014

Towards Effective Prevention: Practical steps for the next Government

A new report from The Early Action Task Force, led by Community Links, sets out ways in which a future government could free itself from the stranglehold of short-term planning and save taxpayers’ money as a result. The report Towards Effective Prevention: Practical steps for the next Government,  argues that looming cash crises in health, local government and other public services due to rising demand could be avoided if government invested now in early action rather than cutting back on measures that will save money and promote growth over the long-term.

The report has been produced by the Early Action Task Force - a consortium of leaders from charitable bodies, the public sector and business and identifis that early action saves money, and promotes both prosperity and well-being but suffers from chronic underinvestment. A 2013 Public Accounts Committee report said that shifting away from reactive spending and short-term action could potentially bring better outcomes, cut public spending and give better value for money but the National Audit Office found that only 6% of relevant government spending was being spent in this way.

The report proposes a new investment strategy, including a ten-year government planning perspective, combined with firm five-year budgets in every spending review. It also advocates:

  • a new budget for early action spending to protect vital social investment from short term “current account” pressures;
  • a £250m Early Action Loan Fund to promote better working across different budgets and agencies to be funded by a new tax on “social polluters” including alcohol, gambling and pay-day lenders;
  • an independent Office for Future Generations to report on the Government’s progress in investing in reducing costs downstream.

Commenting, David Robinson, Community Links co-founder and chair of the Early Action Task Force, says:
“The political agenda is too often set by short-term considerations and the focus is on current concerns rather than the future. Prevention and early action are just not happening at the moment and it is costing us dearly. Our proposals have the potential to save us all billions a year as well as helping people live healthier, happier lives, including in their later years. An effective investment strategy for early action should be a vital element of a ‘two term’ strategy for an incoming government to bring social and economic aims together in a positive programme for the future.”

The report was launched at the House of Commons. Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, comments:
“Government currently spends £400 billion each year on health, education, welfare and criminal justice but far too little of this goes on early intervention and prevention. Longer term planning, defining and protecting early action spending and new incentives to break down silo working are all needed to save money and improve lives in the future, as the Public Accounts Committee itself concluded last year. This new report sets out valuable ideas for how to put this into practice and should be essential reading for anyone planning for the next Government.”

Caroline Slocock, report author and Director of think tank Civil Exchange, also says:
“Investing in the long term rather than salami slicing existing budgets is the only sustainable solution to the crisis facing public spending, particularly in local areas. Without addressing the underlying barriers to early action within the public spending system, warm words will not manifest in the changes we desperately need.”