The case for prevention

There are many publications that make a strong social, financial and even economic case for early action and which call for more investment in it. 

The National Audit Office in 2013 published an early action landscape review that concluded that early action has the potential to result in better outcomes and greater value for money, commenting  “in principle, early action can provide positive social and economic outcomes and reduce overall public spending by preventing problems becoming embedded.” It defines early action as “the early deployment of resources by public bodies to prevent problems occurring or getting worse in service provision, rather than spending money reactively once those problems have occurred.”

The Early Action Task Force has written about the “triple dividend: thriving lives, costing less, contributing more.”  It argues that early action isn’t only cheaper than later action and important for social wellbeing; it helps to reduce the deficit and to increase growth. A population that is “ready for everything” contributes more. Public spending goes down and growth goes up. 

The economic case was explored by members of the Early Action Task Force in 2016 in A Question of Growth: How earlier action can promote good growth where many make the point that,  although early action increases economic activity and the social infrastructure that supports growth, economic growth as a goal can be negative where it creates poverty and reduces social and environmental sustainability.  There are calls for redefining growth to capture this.

The RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission in its interim report has called for significant investment in prevention and writes that “if the government is serious about inclusive growth, it needs to invest (rather than simply accrue cost) in social infrastructure in the same way that it does now in physical infrastructure, assuming the same long-term multiplier effects about the nature and size of economic growth.  It needs to redefine as investment the work we need to do to bring people and places up to the level where they can take part equally in the economy.”   Amongst other things, the Commission is now looking at a better definition of economic growth that captures the concept of inclusive growth.

There are numerous reports commissioned by the Government and others that identify the financial and other benefits from earlier action in specific areas such as health.  To read more...