A national network of family hubs could improve outcomes for families and prove cost-effective to the taxpayer, Barnardo’s has said.
The children’s charity believes that investing in family support to assist struggling parents leads to improved outcomes for families which deliver not just improved lives for children but also cost benefits to the state.
Barnardo’s co-CEO (interim) Lynn Perry, said: “Barnardo’s has long warned that children’s social care is becoming an ‘emergency service’, available only to those at crisis point or beyond.
“With the number of children in local authority care rising year on year, we must take action to support families before problems escalate. Only then can we truly ‘level up’ opportunities and give every child the best start in life,” added Ms Perry.
Family hubs offer support to parents regardless of their child's age, by providing a ‘local nerve centre’ for all family support within a community, bringing together everything from stay and play groups, to breastfeeding support to help with issues such as finding a job or applying for benefits.
Barnardo’s family support programme is delivered through family hubs in the Isle of Wight and has resulted in improved outcomes for families and delivers savings against other more costly interventions the families would otherwise need later on. It has been calculated that for every £1 invested in the service, the benefit is around £2.60 – the equivalent to savings of just over £1m per annum in 2020/21. These figures are based on some conservative assumptions about what would have happened to a family without any intervention.
The number of children in care in England has increased from 64,400 in March 2010 to 80,080 in March 2020, representing an increase of around a quarter in a decade.
Most children enter the care system due to abuse or neglect in the family home because of (65% of children). Evidence shows that many referrals are underpinned by wider socio-economic problems such as domestic abuse and parental mental health issues.
While local authority spending on late intervention has increased over the last 10 years, spending on early intervention and preventative services has declined by 48% between 2010-11 and 2019-20, according to analysis by Pro Bono Economics on behalf of several children’s charities, including Barnardo’s.
Lynn Perry added: “As a society, we need to provide parents and carers with the ‘village’ it takes to raise a child – whether that’s help with breastfeeding and good mental health or support with problems such as poverty or domestic abuse.
“Our new analysis demonstrates that providing this vital support in the form of community-based family hubs can save the taxpayer millions of pounds a year – in addition to achieving better outcomes for children and families.
“When the government sets out its spending priorities this autumn, we urge Ministers to include a firm commitment to long-term, sustainable funding for these critical services,” she concluded.
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