How hard data can help save children at risk

This editorial piece from the Sydney Morning Herald describes a new report released by the Government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia entitled 'Forecasting Future Outcomes,' which "gives a hard financial justification and a possible methodology for early intervention to protect certain vulnerable groups of young people before it is too late." The report was produced partly in response to an inquiry in 2016 which "exposed how badly NSW deals with children who are taken away from their families and placed in out-of-home care." That initial inquiry not only found that the number of children in care in NSW had doubled in the past decade and that spending on out of home care had tripled, it also indicated that "government is spending on the wrong things, usually too late, after a crisis, when the child’s life was already irreparably off the rails."

This report estimated the amount per child that the NSW and federal governments are spending on welfare services, and identified those groups that are likely to "cost" more. NSW Minister for Families and Communities Gareth Ward has promised the creation of an inter-agency taskforce to “identify those at risk early in life and invest in them." "Intervening early could eventually save money," says the author of the article, "but (and this is a crucial qualification) for the foreseeable future it will require more money to be spent rather than less."