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Preventonomics: A Better Start – how will it pay?

The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at LSE has been selected to deliver ‘Preventonomics: A Better Start – how will it pay?’. This is a study of the benefits and potential cost savings of early years’ prevention services and support. It is supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start initiative.

The Big Lottery Fund will invest up to £150 million to help children in three to five deprived areas have A Better Start and improve their life chances. With ‘Preventonomics’, PSSRU will investigate which interventions are most likely to ensure this unprecedented investment pays off in financial terms, and lay the groundwork for an on-going evaluation of costs and savings at a local level.

A Better Start aims to help local areas deliver a change in service provision by shifting funds towards preventative approaches in pregnancy and up to age three. The Big Lottery Fund will invest up to £50 million in each of three to five geographic areas over eight to ten years, focusing on initiatives based around social and emotional development, language development and nutrition. PSSRU will provide the initiative with evidence on potential cost savings from interventions and develop tools to enable the funded areas to evaluate the costs and savings from the preventative interventions they implement.

‘Preventonomics’ will be delivered by a team around Professor Jennifer Beecham. She heads up PSSRU’s thriving research programme on Services for Children and Young People, bringing an economic perspective to studies of cross-agency service provision for children and families. She has over 20 years’ experience in research with Local Authorities, health services and voluntary organisations.

“We are really excited to work with the Big Lottery Fund on such an ambitious project. It could have a big impact on families and children,” said Professor Beecham. “In times of tight budgets, it is vital to make the economic case for investments – especially when it involves a shift in spending on such a large scale. ‘Preventonomics’ will help ensure that the money is invested where it will really make a difference.”

Nat Sloane, England Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, said:   

“Investing in the health and wellbeing of our youngest children is good for families and good for society. In this study we want to show that it is good for the economy too. Working with the PSSRU at LSE we will make sure that the partnerships funded by A Better Start have access to the very best economic evidence and have the tools to help them understand the costs and benefits of investing in prevention in the first few years of life.”    

Over the next 15 months, the PSSRU team will review the existing evidence on the economics of prevention and design economic models linking evidence from various sources to estimate the likely savings from successful interventions. We will also provide local decision makers with a toolkit that makes it easy to calculate the costs and benefits of their preventative interventions. More information about this study can be found at bit.ly/preventonomics|. PSSRU will be working with a consortium around the University of Warwick tasked with evaluating the outcomes of A Better Start, and the Social Research Unit at Dartington who are supporting 15 local areas invited to submit an application for funding.



The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU)’s mission is to conduct high quality research on social and health care to inform and influence policy, practice and theory. PSSRU is one of the leading social care research groups and since its establishment in 1974 has had considerable impact on national and European policy. In the UK, evidence from recent economic evaluations has been used by the Department of Health, HM Treasury, DWP, DIUS, Cabinet Office, DfID, Select Committees, NICE, SCIE and NAO. PSSRU projections on funding social care and the implications of government reform are widely cited. For further information about PSSRU visit the website|, see our blog|, or follow us on Twitter (@PSSRU_LSE). 

More information about A Better Start can be found at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/betterstart|

To speak to the researchers, email Rehanna Neky, r.neky@lse.ac.uk|

The study has been commissioned via LSE Consulting, part of LSE Enterprise|, LSE’s business arm.