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The Deciding Time

 Prevent today or pay tomorrow

The Deciding Time

The second report of the Early Action Task Force paints an urgent picture of escalating needs and diminishing resources. As funds have been cut over the last year acute services have been prioritised at the expense of earlier action. More problems have become more difficult when they might have been prevented entirely.

These trajectories are unsustainable but they are not inevitable. This report considers some of the many examples of successful prevention and points out that the benefits are economic as well as social. Effective early action is a need reduction strategy reducing future liabilities and promoting growth.

So why is it not the prevailing economic orthodoxy and the dominant organising principle at the heart of our public services?

The Task Force identify the six big obstacles that are thwarting progress. They show that isolated initiatives are insufficient. Structures and systems must change to meet imminent liabilities and to unleash the triple dividend – thriving lives, costing less and contributing more. New rules, duties, structures, tools and funding are suggested to break the constraints of short-term thinking and siloed delivery.

The recommendations here are rooted in experience. They are practical and pragmatic but would in aggregate result in a different kind of politics and a different kind of society – one that valued sustainable solutions above short term crisis management, one that looked ahead. The challenges and the choice posed in this report are profound, urgent and for us all. Prevent now or pay tomorrow; in every dimension of our lives, we need to decide.

In addition to the full report, available for download, there is a short summary. The Deciding Time is the second report of the Early Action Task Force, their first - The Triple Dividend - was published in November 2011.

This report has been welcomed by Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children and Task Force member: 

"Far too often, we see children and families facing severe and complex issues which could have been prevented if the right support had been in place for them at an earlier stage.

"We know from our annual Red Book report – an investigation into the real impact of Government spending decisions on children across the UK – that not intervening early could cost society more than £1.3 billion a year. Added to this, the current system of short-term, quick-fix funding is simply exacerbating existing need and instability.

"It is crucial that we shift from a system of crisis management to crisis prevention by developing long-term strategies and investing in the kinds of early intervention services that help prevent problems from spiralling out of control."

Dharmendra Kanani Big Lottery Fund Director of England:

“Current services are struggling to keep up with increasing demand and the greater complexity in the types of problems people are facing. Action needs to be taken now before it is too late.”

“Prevention is better than cure – we all know this but do little about it. Too often this common sense does not feature in policy making or public spending decisions. We are all far better at responding to problems than stopping them from getting worse or starting in the first place.

“The Big Lottery Fund is clear we can really add value to making the case for prevention through our funding and support, that’s why we funded the work of the early action task force and are at the at the forefront of recognising that change is needed by putting our money where our mouth is. Our £165m commitment to improve the life chances of over 10,000 vulnerable babies over a ten year period is but one example. This funding is about leading the way on early action, showing what is possible, and ultimately transforming the lives of people and communities in need.”

The report's launch was featured around the web:

Spend early, spend less often: In Public Finance, by Dan Corry
Early Intervention: common sense so why not common practice? Huffington Post, by Dan Corry
The Deciding Time: on the New Philanthropy Capital Blog, by Dan Corry
The ABC we still struggle to learn: Julian Dobson
Deciding to act earlier: Social Finance blog, Ben Jupp
Common sense but not common practice: on the BIG Lottery Fund blog, by David Robinson
How early action would help improve services: on Liberal Conspiracy, by Will Horwitz
The Deciding Time; on the Locality Blog, by David Robinson
40% of public spending is wasted: Public
Catch them before they fall (£): The Munipial Journal, by Dan Corry

NCVO's Public Service Delivery Network also launched a series of email bulletins and a new early action resource with a message from David to coincide with the launch. Read the first newsletter here