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How can the government move to a preventative approach to public services?

Investing in prevention could save money and improve productivity – so is it time for government to rethink public service spending?

Panellists on stage at the Institute for Government
From left to right: Sir Sajid Javid, Lynn Perry, Nick Davies, Donna Molloy and Stuart Hoddinott.

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Preventative public services are designed to deal with problems before they develop, or before they become more complicated to manage. Evidence suggests that children in particular benefit from investment whether that’s in the early years, or earlier in their life cycle, helping to prevent problems from determining their outcomes later in life. The Labour Party has put prevention at the centre of its plans for public services, promising a ‘prevention first revolution’. And the government has identified increased prevention as a key contributor towards improved public sector productivity. However, high demand for acute services means governments have often found it difficult to invest in prevention.  

So what can be done to bring about a change of approach?

This event brought together a panel of experts to discuss:  

  • What are preventative services and how has investment in them changed over time?
  • What evidence is there that preventative services improve outcomes and deliver savings?  
  • What are the barriers to government taking a preventative approach?
  • How could government funding be shifted towards preventative services?  
  • What can be learnt from previous examples of preventative approaches?

To discuss these questions and more, we were joined by an expert panel, including:

  • Stuart Hoddinott, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government
  • Rt Hon Sir Sajid Javid MP, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
  • Donna Molloy, Deputy Chief Executive at Foundations 
  • Lynn Perry MBE, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s

The event was chaired by Nick Davies, Programme Director at the Institute for Government.  

Photos from the event can be viewed on our Flickr page here. 

Follow us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @IfGEvents and join the conversation using #publicservices.

We would like to thank Barnardo’s for kindly supporting this event.  

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