Preventative spending has a key role in improving Scotland’s social problems, says committee


Scotland’s public services must focus more on preventing social problems arising rather than reacting to problems once they have occurred, according to a report on Preventative Spending published today by the Parliament’s Finance Committee.

The report outlines the scale of the challenge facing Scotland’s Public Sector in dealing with child wellbeing and social problems, such as violence and ill health. However, the report strongly backs the claims of expert witnesses who suggest that a preventative approach is one of the best means of tackling these problems and one that can deliver significant financial savings in the process.

The report also identifies the barriers preventing Scotland from realising the full benefits that Preventative Spending could deliver and calls on all political parties to provide the leadership required to overcome these obstacles.

The Finance Committee Convener, Andrew Welsh MSP, said:

“This is the first time since devolution that a Parliamentary Committee has examined the concept of preventative spending in-depth and across a range of public spending areas. The Finance Committee has heard remarkably strong evidence about the benefits such an approach could deliver. In essence, there will have to be a shift from the public sector spending money on reacting to crises, to a greater focus on prevention and early intervention.

“Some of the most powerful evidence we heard relates to the early years of life. We were told that, ‘the way children are treated in their first three years has a direct bearing on whether they grow up to be pro or anti-social, adjusted or dysfunctional, peaceable or violent, healthy or unhealthy’. More encouragingly, we also heard that every £1 invested in programmes to provide support between the years of birth to age three can save between £3 and £14 later on.

“While the committee welcomes the efforts being made by the Scottish Government to invest in the early years, we want both the Government and the Parliament to help deliver the radical step change needed in this key area.”

The report also:

  • asks the Scottish Government to say whether greater investment in health professionals is required to support Early Years programmes;
  • urges Public Sector bodies to work more closely together on tackling the root causes of social problems, rather than managing them;
  • calls for a shift from reactive to Preventative Spending, which will require sustained planning and investment and long term political commitment.
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