Early years funds to shift towards prevention

Task force wants less emphasis on crisis-driven care

Elizabeth Buie

The Early Years Task Force, charged with improving services across Scotland, has called for a shift in funding away from crisis-driven, curative care towards a preventative approach.

The report, which offers the Scottish government its vision for early years strategy in the future, has been welcomed by the children's minister, Aileen Campbell, who co-chaired the group with Cosla president Pat Watters and chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns.

The task force, drawn from local and national government, the health sector, social work and early learning, recommends that the Early Years Change Fund, worth pound;272 million over the next three years, be used as a starting point to reconsider how the total early years budget of pound;2.7 billion per year is invested in future.

"This will require bold decisions around disinvestment at both a local and national level, but it is important that the focus of local activity is on the change that needs to take place in the delivery of services rather than the mechanics around the monetary amounts that are attributed to the change fund," it states.

The task force's vision echoes many of the points made by Professor Susan Deacon in Joining the Dots, her 2011 report on early years.

"We know that while procedures are needed, there can be excessive bureaucracy and duplication in the system. We now need to get on with doing the right things," it continues.

"Prioritisation of services by providers can be a difficult task, particularly when statutory obligations overshadow other work. Difficult decisions will need to be made, at a national and local level, about where investment should be prioritised."

Sarah Burton, policy development manager for Children in Scotland, said: "We are concerned that the report's reference to `provision where it is needed most' does not lead to more of the limited, targeted programmes that are already failing to transform lives of young children in Scotland.

"We should be moving towards national, large-scale universal services in line with European research findings and policy recommendations."

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk

Action points

Provide guidance for community planning partnerships on which interventions should be prioritised and which de-prioritised;

Establish a practice development team to support local areas in implementing the change programme;

Give legal status to some elements of the Early Years Framework;

Consider whether additional support, learning or development is required to support the early years workforce;

Develop a national parenting strategy;

Develop the Bookbug programme and PlayTalkRead campaign;

Establish a Communities and Families Fund to support local projects that bring real tangible benefits for children and families.

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Elizabeth Buie

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