The cost of late intervention: EIF analysis 2016

Publication Details

Publication date: 17 November 2016
Edited by: Haroon Chowdry and Peter Fitzsimons

Join the conversation with

The Cost of Late Intervention: EIF analysis 2016 updates the report we published last year. Its focus is on the immediate and short-run fiscal costs of what we call ‘late intervention’: the acute, statutory and essential benefits and services that are required when children and young people experience significant difficulties in life, many of which might have been prevented. Spending on late intervention is an indicator of demand for acute services, such as hospitalisation and incarceration, which tend to be more expensive. EIF aims to increase the use of effective early intervention to help reduce this demand.

Nearly £17 billion per year – equivalent to £287 per person – is spent in England and Wales by the state on the cost of late intervention. This has not fallen since our last report in 2015. While the estimated total is as before, our latest analysis shows that the profile has changed. For example, the cost due to domestic violence has risen, while the cost due to young people who are not in employment, education or training has fallen. Breaking down the costs by issue, department or area allows for more targeted investment, which could lead to a reduction in late intervention spend in future.


  • Nearly £17 billion per year is spent in England and Wales by the state on the cost of late intervention – in line with EIF’s previous estimate. This works out at around £287 per person.
  • The largest individual costs are:
    • £5.3 billion spent on Looked After Children
    • £5.2 billion associated with cases of domestic violence
    • £2.7 billion spent on benefits for young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • The cost of late intervention is spread across different areas of the public sector, with the largest shares borne by:
    • local authorities (£6.4 billion)
    • the NHS (£3.7 billion)
    • DWP (£2.7 billion)
  • In education, the total costs of persistent absenteeism and permanent exclusions are both higher than last year’s estimate.
  • The amount spent on late intervention varies significantly across England (download data / use interactive map). Using spend per person in each local authority as a basis for comparison, we find that this is £298 on average but can be as low as £164 or as high as £531.
  • Using heat maps, we are able to show that the amount of money spent in a local authority on late intervention is, to some extent, linked to the level of deprivation in that area. There is also an urban/rural split: rural areas are more likely to show lower levels of both late intervention spend and deprivation, while urban areas are more likely to show higher levels of both.

The cost of late intervention across different social issues

£m per year, for children and young people, across England and Wales

What is the cost of late intervention in your area?


What are other people saying about EIF’s Cost of Late Intervention analysis?

“If we truly want to succeed in reducing crime and increasing the life chances of people in our society, we need to better tackle the root causes by intervening at the earliest opportunity.

“We know that crime is cyclical and that adverse childhood experiences significantly increase the chances of youngsters becoming involved in crime throughout their lives. We need to better tackle the origins of crime, rather than simply react to problems when they arise.

“The EIF data clearly demonstrates to me that spending in Northamptonshire on late intervention far outweighs the total policing budget, and it is important that we consider the scale of this reactive need. We all have a moral obligation to intervene and I am personally committed to working with other organisations to improve the life chances of our children, reduce crime and help build a better stronger society.”

Stephen Mold, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner

“This report shows that the annual cost of late intervention is still unacceptably high at nearly £17bn and local authorities continue to bear the largest share. The human cost to children and young people is much greater and can have a lasting impact on generations of families.

“Councils know that we can make the strongest difference to children and young people’s outcomes by investing in early intervention and preventative services before problems become entrenched and reach crisis point but the current financial context is tough and as the pressure on our budgets increases, so too does the pressure on these services. The report rightly states that there will always be a need to spend on late intervention, for example, by taking children into care when necessary, but we must get the balance right. For a while a period of double investment in both early help and high end child protection services will be necessary but in time we will realise the benefits.

“This will not be an easy undertaking and will be particularly difficult for deprived regions that are often supporting families facing more complex issues and social conditions but doing nothing is not an option – the risks for children and families is too great. There is a strong argument for a shift away from reactive spending but central government is not enabling this approach in local areas.”

Dave Hill, President, Association of Directors of Children’s Services

Share this page