Social Finance has been awarded a contract by Essex County Council to deliver a Social Impact Bond to provide therapeutic support and improve outcomes for adolescents at risk of going into care. Essex County Council is the first local authority to commission a Social Impact Bond in Children’s Services.
Social Finance has raised a total commitment of £3.1m to fund interventions for 11-16 year olds at the edge of care or custody so that the young people can safely remain at home with their families. The investment is provided at risk by social investors, such as cornerstone investors Big Society Capital and Bridges Ventures, whose financial return is aligned to the positive social impact of delivering a better future for vulnerable adolescents.
The Essex Social Impact Bond will fund a five year programme which will provide intensive support to approximately 380 adolescents and their families. The target is to divert around 100 adolescents from entering care by providing support to young people in their home. The success of the Social Impact Bond will be measured by the reduction in days spent in care by the adolescents, as well as improved school outcomes, wellbeing and reduced reoffending. If the interventions deliver successful outcomes, the investors might expect returns in the range of 8-12% pa. The investment is entirely at risk; should the intervention not deliver the pre-agreed outcomes, the local authority does not pay.
The Social Impact Bond will be funding Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), which delivers family therapy in the home by highly qualified therapists. It focuses on improving parenting and rebuilding positive relationships so that families can manage future crisis situations, delivering long term and sustained impact. It is an evidence-based programme with 30 years international track record and will be provided by Action for Children, a leading children’s charity that supports the needs of the most vulnerable children and families in the UK. The charity has a track record in developing and delivering early intervention programmes.
Adolescents are the single largest age group within looked after children overall in the UK. They often enter care because of multiple and complex behaviour problems, triggered at adolescence, which lead to aggression, antisocial behaviour, parental loss of control, family breakdown, and ultimately an inability or lack of desire to continue living with the birth family.
Essex has had higher numbers of young people in care than both national averages and statistically comparable Local Authorities and a predominance of older adolescents. Care placements costs are high, ranging from £20 to £180k per annum.
Life chances for children who enter state care are typically bleak:
- A quarter of all prisoners have been in care compared to 2% of the population overall;
- Educational attainment by looked after children is five times worse than for the population overall - over 50% of looked after children obtain fewer than five GCSEs or equivalent compared to the national figure of 10%;
- One third of previously looked after children are NEET (not in education, employment or training) at age 19.
“We’re delighted that Essex County Council has supported and led this initiative,” said David Hutchison, CEO of Social Finance. “This Social Impact Bond is designed to provide better support to adolescents and their families on the edge of the care system. It is another illustration of how social investment can be mobilised to improve support for vulnerable groups in our society. The investment is rewarded solely by the delivery of better social outcomes for these groups. Social Finance is encouraged to see new organisations participating in the growing social investment market.”
Leader of Essex County Council Peter Martin said: “I am proud that Essex has had the vision to progress with a new social care model to deliver improved services and support for our most vulnerable young people. Essex has always strived to be innovative and forward thinking and it is this attitude that has allowed us to explore social investment. I look forward to seeing the project go live in April next year.”
Chief Executive of Action for Children Dame Clare Tickell said: “We know from working in communities across the UK that intervening at the earliest possible stage ensures that children are safe and protected, and that neglect is prevented even when problems are already entrenched. Programmes such as MST have delivered proven results. Stable funding from the Social Impact Bond allows us to work with Essex County Council over the longer term to produce real results that will benefit children, families and communities.”
The Essex Social Impact Bond seeks to improve key social outcomes for young people while providing an attractive financial return to investors. Social Finance hopes that the Essex Social Impact Bond will catalyse systemic change in public services for vulnerable adolescents.