Early intervention policies bring long-term health benefits says new study
“Ahead of this autumn’s tight Spending Review, these results are a reminder that policymakers should consider a programme’s potential for long-term savings, not just its up-front costs.” Sarah Cattan, IFS Associate Director and a co-author of the report
New Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) research suggests a range of early years interventions taken together reduce inequalities and have long-lasting health benefits.
The research, funded by the Nuffield Institute for Health, builds on previous analysis of Sure Start, one of England’s biggest early years programmes.
Established in 1999, Sure Start Children’s Centres brought together health, parenting support, childcare and parental employment services into a one-stop shop for families with children under five.
At its peak in 2010, Sure Start received £1.8 billion a year (a third of overall early years spending), but spending has since fallen by more than two-thirds as many centres have been closed, scaled back or integrated into Family Hubs.
Focusing on the 2000s (when the programme was expanding), the researchers found that the impact of Sure Start changed as children aged, but the long-term benefits persisted.
They say: “These results highlight the importance of integrating a range of services during the early years to improve child health in both the immediate and longer term.
“These are important lessons for existing services (such as Family Hubs) and should inform the government’s approach to the recommendations in the recent Leadsom Report on the first 1,001 days of life.
Sarah Cattan, IFS Associate Director and a co-author of the report, said:
“‘The savings from reduced hospitalisations up to age 15 offset around a third of the cost of the Sure Start programme – and that’s before considering any potential benefits in education, social care or crime.
“Ahead of this autumn’s tight Spending Review, these results are a reminder that policymakers should consider a programme’s potential for long-term savings, not just its up-front costs.”
*In recognition of the importance of data for improving health and care, Future Care Capital is organising an event on 2 September 2021 – Strength and opportunities: Where next for social care analytics?