Building a Business Case for Prevention

The duty to help those in greatest need today rightly trumps tomorrow’s problems. But this means that high spending on today’s problems leaves little money to spend on tomorrow’s problems. So how we find the resources to prevent tomorrow’s problems from occurring? How do we convince those who control the public purse, to invest in prevention?

Today we are publishing a technical guide “Building a business case for prevention”. This is part of a package of support we are delivering on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund, to help commissioners develop Social Impact Bonds and apply to the Outcomes Funds.  The aim of this guide is to clarify what is needed to make a decision to invest in prevention, and sets out the key questions that should be answered to develop a robust business case for prevention.

To use Community Links founder, and Social Finance Board Member David Robinson’s persuasive phrasing, a fence at the top of the cliff is preferable to an ambulance at the bottom. For example, we are currently exploring how promoting community connections and reducing social isolation amongst older people could be a critical element in preventing ill-health and meeting other needs. Social isolation not only reduces older people’s immediate quality of life, but it is linked to poor physical and mental health over the following years.

This type of analysis is at the heart of our work; how can we invest in prevention in social areas where current interventions are undermined by finance and delivery? The Social Impact Bond is designed to tackle a number of issues identified as hindering social progress. Firstly, governments across the board find it difficult to take on innovation, particularly prevention and early intervention. This is in part due to risk aversion but also because of the fear of paying twice, once for the interventions and then again for the acute services if the interventions fail.  Secondly, voluntary organisations are dependent on prescriptive contracts that focus on activity rather than successful outcomes. This limits innovation and flexibility in the delivery of support services. And lastly, because of funding issues, organisations rarely work together to deliver a set of interventions tailored to individual need.

The technical guide published today draws on the excellent work of the Early Action Taskforce (EAF) in championing (and gaining) national recognition for prevention. For those working in areas with a consistent lack of investment in prevention, a SIB may allow for innovation to be tested, with the risk transferred from the commissioner. There is £60 million in outcomes funding available in Outcomes Funds administered by the Big Lottery Fund and Cabinet Office, as well as up to £3 million in development grants to refine a SIB proposal. More information about the support available can be found here.

We hope this guide will empower public service commissioners to explore how investment in prevention could reduce the burden on acute services, and ultimately deliver a more effective range of services for those in  need.

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