The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at LSE has been commissioned by The Big Lottery Fund to study the benefits and potential cost savings of early years’ prevention as part of The Big Lottery Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start initiative.
The Big Lottery Fund will invest up to £50m in each of 3-5 geographic areas over 8-10 years, focussing on initiatives based around social and emotional development, language development and nutrition. There is a strong commitment to implementing evidence-based interventions, inspired in particular by the work of the Harvard Centre for the Developing Child. “From Neurons to Neighbourhoods” (large download!) describes how early influences on children shape their brains and emotions, with knock-on effects to behaviour, education attainment and long-term health. To improve child outcomes, society needs to be shaped around supporting families and children in the early years. This involves parents, teachers, health care professionals and other service providers. Adopting this model of thinking about early childhood, A Better Start aims to help local areas deliver a change in service provision by shifting funds towards preventative approaches in pregnancy and up to age three.
Currently, 15 local areas across England are preparing strategies to turn The Big Lottery Fund’s investment into a real change for children and families, hoping to be among the 3-5 areas chosen. To support these applications, The Big Lottery Fund have commissioned a review of “What Works”, the evidence on effective interventions and programmes. As part of ‘Preventonomics’, PSSRU will undertake a similar evidence review of “What Pays” in prevention and promotion in the early years to ensure this unprecedented investment pays off in financial terms, and lay the groundwork for on-going evaluation of costs and savings at the local level.
Following on from this work, the PSSRU team around Professor Jennifer Beecham will design economic models linking evidence from various sources to estimate the likely savings from successful interventions. This is similar to the economic models we have introduced on the LSE Health and Social Care blog on the costs of autism in Germany and in the UK, or the study investigating the value-for-money case for post-adoption support. We will show the cost to society arising from poor social and emotional development, language development and nutrition, and who pays them. We will then estimate by how much these costs can potentially be reduced if evidence-based interventions are implemented.
‘Preventonomics’ will also provide local decision makers with a toolkit that makes it easy to calculate the costs and benefits of their preventative interventions. We hope that this will champion a culture of economic evaluation that will enable local service planners and providers to channel resources to where they will get the best “bang” for their buck. In times of stretched budgets, this is especially important – and even more so when it is about achieving the best possible start for all children.
The ‘Preventonomics’ team at PSSRU will be working with a consortium around the University of Warwick tasked with evaluating the outcomes of A Better Start, and the Social Research Unit at Dartington who are supporting 15 local areas invited to submit an application for funding. We are excited to work with The Big Lottery Fund on such an ambitious project and look forward to sharing our findings.
For first-hand updates on the project, follow @BigFirstYears and @Preventonomics on Twitter.
More information about A Better Start can be found at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/betterstart
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The study has been commissioned via LSE Consulting, part of LSE Enterprise, the business arm of the London School of Economics and Political Science. To find out more about our consulting and custom executive education services, visit lse.ac.uk/enterprise.
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