Challenges of estimating the cost effectiveness of services for vulnerable children.

Issues of cost and impact are at the heart of debates in central and local government about how to support vulnerable children and how reduce the risks of harm and unfairness. Definitions of vulnerability need and risk are often vague and variable, attitudes to data and evidence similarly. Politics, anxiety and ideology drive much of policy on the issues of child protection with debates fraught between the diverse perspectives of social workers and other practitioners, children, families and policymakers. Economists have not engaged anything like as much in these issues as they have on issues of education and childcare but because of the importance of the issues themselves, the large amount of money spent, the complexity of the topic and the need for better theory and evidence, it is good that this is starting to change. This presentation brings together work conducted or commissioned by the presenter over the last decade at the Early Intervention Foundation, the Children’s Commissioners Office and in HM Treasury on how to understand where money goes in relation to children and what is achieved by it. There are substantial gaps in evidence and in our ability to adequately theorise the problems and I hope in this presentation to introduce these issues and stimulate further engagement by economists on them.

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