IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Short-term savings on children has long-term costs for society

3rd September 2009

The OECD has identified what we have known for some time: short-term savings on children’s health and education leads to far more substantial costs in the longer-term – and Ireland is among the “worst performing nations” when it comes to how much we spend on general child welfare in terms of health and education.

The report from the OECD, Doing Better for Children, looked at how much governments are spending on children and, crucially, whether they are spending it at the right times.

All the latest research suggests that early intervention and investment in our children – as the report puts it, at the “Dora the Explorer” early years rather than “Facebook” teen years – is the key to breaking negative cycles of poverty and exclusion among our most disadvantaged.

The findings of the OECD report supports IPRT's belief that there is huge potential - and urgency - for a shift of justice resources to prevention and early intervention in Ireland.

We already know that you are 25 times more likely to end up in prison if you come from the most deprived areas of Ireland. And we know from international studies that investing just $600 in providing early childhood education to the most disadvantaged communities, saves society on average $15,000 per child in lower future crime rates; spending just $2,400 in supports and interventions for the families of young offenders can save the taxpayer almost $50,000 in the longer term by reducing reoffending among that group.

To this end, in the coming months IPRT will be conducting a major research project on pathways into criminal behaviour among young people, and the potential costs and benefits for prevention and early intervention. Check back here for updates.

See also Liam's Herrick's blog entry 'An Bord Snip Nua: Storing up social and economic liabilities for future generations.'