New economic modelling finds long-term investment in early intervention saves $1.6b
Economic modelling recently commissioned by Berry Street has found that long-term investment in targeted early intervention to prevent children entering the out-of-home care system in Victoria would deliver net savings of $1.6 billion over 10 years.
Early intervention, the research found, would not only net significant savings, but would also prevent 1,200 children from entering out-of-home care every year. The findings are particularly important to Victoria, which is projected to have almost 26,000 children in out-of-home-care by 2026; more than any other state and territory.
The results, while not directly aligned with early childhood education and care (ECEC) will be of interest to the sector as front-line responders to children and families who are experiencing abuse and neglect – a child protection system which is better served and financed is one which is more equipped to support children and families.
CEO of Berry Street, Michael Perusco, said there has been an “exponential growth of children coming into child protection and out-of-home care. This huge increase in demand has overwhelmed the system, and is delivering poor and sometimes tragic outcomes for the children in its care as a result.”
Almost 45,000 Victorian children were involved in the child protection system in 2017-18, with nearly 12,000 of those living in out-of-home care.
“There will always be a need for child protection services for children who have suffered abuse and neglect. But, for many vulnerable families, providing targeted intervention at an early stage will help them stay safely together, and prevent the need for child protection involvement,” Mr Perusco said.
Effective options that prevent harm to children before the issues confronting families spiral out of control and the children are at serious risk of harm were needed, he added.
The research analysed the impact of investment in five evidence-based early intervention programs and found that implementation of all five programs in Victoria would cost around $150 million per year.
The economic modelling found that the first year of investment alone would see almost 7,000 children supported through the programs, with almost 1,200 children helped to avoid entering out-of-home care. Over 10 years of targeted investment, more than 11,000 children could avoid entering out-of-home care, with the investment costs to break-even at year five.
Deb Tsorbaris, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, which represents over 100 Victorian child and family services organisations, said Victoria “needs to get serious about addressing the growing numbers.”
“We are currently mourning the loss of 35 children and young people who had contact with the system, as highlighted by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People’s recent report ‘Lost, Not Forgotten’. If we are to address that number and attempt to stop it from sky-rocketing in the coming years, we need proper investment in early intervention, so that children and families receive the support they need at the right time.”
Emphasising both the budgetary and social impacts of investment as proposed by the modelling, Mr Perusco said it “is nothing in comparison to the benefits it would deliver…if we purely look at the numbers – the Government could save $2 for every $1 it invests in early intervention. But the social imperative that we do better for vulnerable children and young people is unquantifiable.”
The research was funded by the Macquarie Group Foundation, and supported by a coalition of Victoria’s leading child and family services agencies, including the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, OzChild, Anglicare Victoria, MacKillop Family Services, Mallee Family Care, the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Uniting Victoria and Tasmania, and Youth Support and Advocacy Service.
The full report is available here