A stitch in time is a campaign for better early care.

Early support is a practical way of helping children and families to help themselves and overcome problems before they start. It means services to support new parents, help toddlers develop, educate young people, improve the well-being of teenagers or tackle the signs of abuse and neglect as early as possible.

Most problems that families and children face don’t start overnight. They emerge gradually. For example:

  • An unemployed young man with no qualifications is likely to have skipped school when he was a child.
  • A mother neglecting her home and children may be depressed after setbacks such as a difficult pregnancy, redundancy, or a relationship breakdown.
  • A young woman left homeless after leaving care hasn’t learnt basic life skills, such as budgeting to afford rent.

These kind of problems cost public services billions of pounds each year, and each could’ve been prevented.

It costs £2,700 to teach a child to read, but around £50,000 to support an adult who can’t.

The Long-term Costs of Literacy Difficulties, KPMG Foundation

A stitch in time saves nine

We all know that by taking action early, we can prevent bigger problems later on, often saving time, money, or effort. Like servicing a car to reduce the risk of breakdown, immunising a baby so it doesn't catch a disease later on, or clearing a loan as soon as possible to avoid paying more interest.

Early support is the same. It can reduce public spending and pressures on public services in the longer term. It can also prevent children and families reaching crisis point, lessening stress and trauma.

The main benefits

Working with Barnardo's, The Children's Society, NSPCC and Save the Children, we’ve identified nine benefits which early support would bring to different groups.

Benefits for children:

  • More likely to grow up healthier in body and mind.
  • Better prepared for school and more likely to stay engaged with learning.
  • More emotionally resilient and equipped to weather personal crises throughout life.
  • Less likely to be abused or neglected.

Benefits for young people:

  • Less likely to resort to crime and anti-social behaviour.
  • Better able to cope with the change from adolescence to adulthood, into employment and stability.

Benefit for families:

  • Less likely to have crises, reducing the number of families labelled as ‘troubled’.

Benefit for communities:

  • More able to provide local networks of support among families.

Benefit for taxpayers:

  • Less state spending on expensive and intensive support for children and young people.

What we’re doing

We want the next Government to focus more on Early Support. So we’re calling on all political parties to make a commitment now to:

  • Five-year spending plans - the Government, local councils, and other service providers will be able to make longer-term plans, giving children and family services more stability.
  • Promoting community budgets – a new way for providers of public services to pool their money, they reduce waste and make it easier to work together, helping your money work harder.
  • More accountability - including annual progress reports and scrutiny through the Public Accounts Committee, this would show us what’s happening.
  • Putting more money towards early intervention – investing a bigger slice of public money in prevention rather than cure, they’d be acting early to avoid crisis.

We need politicians to commit to earlier action, now and for the long term. Change will not happen overnight, but it can happen over a childhood.

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