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13.04.15

Calls for next government to set out ‘serious’ early action plans

The next Government has been called on to put an early action plan approach at the centre of work undertaken during the first 100 days in office or risk the future of important public services. 

The call comes from a new collection of essays by respected thinkers, advisers and commentators, which set out practical steps for the next government to take as it inherits a situation of escalating need and diminishing resource, with public expenditure cuts forecast into at least the next four years. 

Published by the Community Links led Early Action Task Force, the ‘One Hundred Days for Early Action: Time for Government to put prevention first’ report argues for a revolutionary new approach both in Whitehall and among service providers. 

For instance, Dan Corry, chief executive of think tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), calls for Whitehall to publish a ten-year analysis of spending and outcomes for all new proposals to cut or increase public expenditure; increase the proportion of public expenditure on early action and prevention by a minimum of 0.5% each year (potentially reaching 8.5% public spending by 2020); and open both these approaches to parliamentary scrutiny, via select committees and an annual White Paper.

He said: “The next government really needs to ramp-up its commitment to early action, starting on day one. But it needs the early action sector to play its role too. 

“We have heard rather a lot from organisations, including many charities, along the lines that “one pound now will save this much extra money later on”. But without data to back it up, these numbers are pretty meaningless.” 

Other contributors to the report focus on new government programmes for practical early action. Professor Richard Layard recommends a ‘new deal for parents and children’ including Schools for Life, support for parents, greater support for young people and children with mental health problems and the re-introduction of the job guarantee and apprenticeship guarantee. Professor Anne Power proposes a Troubled Youth programme learning from the Troubled Families initiative. 

David Robinson, chair of the Task Force, said: “The political response used to date – where acute services are prioritised at the expense of earlier action – is unsustainable. The case for change is stark – the public sector was designed to deliver reactive, acute services, targeted on occasional, exceptional need. 

“The need is now neither occasional nor exceptional: more and more people need more and more help. The demand for acute public services is rising but the money to pay for them just isn’t there.” 

He added that the support which has been expressed by the three main political parties for the principle of early action isn’t enough – it’s time for all political leaders to commit to adopting a preventative approach in their manifesto promises and then turn those words into action in government. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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