Published on
22 September 2021

Barnardo’s has uncovered potential savings of millions of pounds to taxpayers if a national network of family hubs to support struggling parents were rolled out across the country. 

The UK’s largest children’s charity believes that investing in family support leads to improved outcomes for families which deliver not just improved lives for children but also cost benefits to the state.  

The charity has calculated how much investment in its family intervention service on the Isle of Wight has saved the state in 2020/21. 

Family hubs offer support to parents regardless of their child's age, working with everyone from pregnant mothers to teenagers. At its best, this model provides a ‘local nerve centre’ for all family support within a community, bringing together everything from stay and play groups, to breastfeeding support to help with issues such as finding a job or applying for benefits. 

Barnardo’s family support programme, delivered through its Isle of Wight family hubs, improves outcomes for families and delivers savings against other more costly interventions the families would otherwise need later on.  

It has been calculated that for every £1 invested in the service, the benefit is about £2.60 – the equivalent to savings of just over £1m per annum in 2020/21.*

These figures are based on some conservative assumptions about what would have happened to a family without any intervention. 

The number of children in care in England reached 80,080 in March 2020 – up from 64,400 in March 2010 – a increase of around a quarter in a decade. (1)  

Most children enter the care system because of problems within the family environment that put the child at risk of abuse or neglect (65% of children). Evidence shows that many referrals are underpinned by wider socio-economic problems such as domestic abuse and parental mental health issues. (2) 

Recent analysis by Pro Bono Economics on behalf of several children’s charities, including Barnardo’s, found that while local authority spending on late intervention has increased over the last ten years, spending on early preventative interventions such as children’s centres, family support services and services for young people declined by 48% between 2010-11 and 2019-20. (3) 

Barnardo’s co-CEO (interim) Lynn Perry, said:  

“Barnardo’s has long warned that children’s social care is becoming an ‘emergency service’, available only to those at crisis point or beyond.  

“With the number of children in local authority care rising year on year, we must take action to support families before problems escalate.  Only then can we truly ‘level up’ opportunities and give every child the best start in life.  

“As a society, we need to provide parents and carers with the ‘village’ it takes to raise a child – whether that’s help with breastfeeding and good mental health or support with problems such as poverty or domestic abuse. 

“Our new analysis demonstrates that providing this vital support in the form of community-based family hubs can save the taxpayer millions of pounds a year – in addition to achieving better outcomes for children and families. 

“When the Government sets out its spending priorities this autumn, we urge Ministers to include a firm commitment to long-term, sustainable funding for these critical services.”  

*It Takes A Village - The case for family support in every community, Barnardo's, September, 2021: https://www.barnardos.org.uk/sites/default/files/2021-09/It-Takes-a-Village-the-case-for-family-support-in-every-community.pdf

1 Statistics: looked-after children - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

2 https://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation//ADCS_Safeguarding_Pressures_Phase7_FINAL.pdf 

3 https://www.probonoeconomics.com/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=fca940e7-7923-4eb3-90d3-be345f067017