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The urgency of now

17 May 2012

In the latest of a series of guest blog posts focusing on the importance of early action and prevention in dealing with a range of social problems, David Robinson, founder of Community Links and chair of the Early Action Taskforce, outlines the need and the potential for an influential alliance for early action.

David shared a platform with BIG at the recent Wisdom of Prevention conference, hosted by the New Economics Foundation (nef) where BIG outlined its future funding ambitions in England and commitment to delivering People Powered Change.

David Robinson

David Robinson

“It isn’t every day of the week that more than 400 people attend the launch of a think tank report. That the LSE lecture theatre was packed out last week for the unveiling of “Wisdom of Prevention” is a tribute to the reputation of its authors at the New Economics Foundation and, especially, an indication of the timely significance of the publication.

In fact its first sentence says exactly that: “The case for prevention is increasingly urgent.” One week earlier the York Health Economics Consortium published research which showed that on current projections diabetes will “bankrupt the NHS within a generation” and yet, incredibly, 80% of the money currently spent on the condition treats complications that could have been prevented.

On the same day I spoke to a local authority CEO who told me that social care for older people will require more than his Council’s entire budget by 2017 if the service isn’t reconfigured to prioritise prevention and so reduce demand.

Wherever you look, the detail is different but the principle is the same: diabetes or care for older people; youth unemployment; debt; underachievement at school, particularly in the basic skills; family breakdown;  violence in the home or on the street,  eat up our national resources and cost more, unaffordably more, when tackled later.

This isn’t a new insight. In fact, as I told the conference, it’s common sense and politicians and policy makers have been talking about it for years. The tough bit is making it happen.

The Big Lottery Fund has been supporting the work of the Early Action Task Force who have been working on the practical challenges involved in turning common sense into common practice and, in particular, on the implementation of the recommendations made in our 2011 report “Triple Dividend”. We are now making plans to build on that work in a second phase and would be delighted to hear from kindred spirits who would like to know more or to work with us.

The Triple Dividend is the first report of the Early Action Taskforce

The Triple Dividend is the first report of the Early Action Taskforce

We think that there is both the need and the potential for an influential alliance banging the drum for early action, working on the nitty gritty of implementation and embedding the process of transition.

The Big Lottery Fund-supported nef event, by the size of the audience, by the breadth of interest represented on the panel (Adair Turner, Margaret Hodge, Jonathon Porrit and BIG’s Dharmendra Kanani) and, especially by the scope and depth of the analysis in the report, demonstrated the potential and the imperative for collaboration across agencies, interests and sectors.

More than ever now we need to think ahead, think differently, think the wisdom of prevention.”

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