Essex Social Impact Bond
Over the past two years Social Finance, with the support of the Big Lottery Fund, has worked with four Local Authorities including Essex County Council (ECC) to explore the feasibility of using the Social Impact Bond mechanism to fund intensive prevention programmes for vulnerable adolescents in or at the edge of care. Essex County Council is the first local authority to award a Social Impact Bond contract.
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.
Looked after children typically suffer poorer outcomes than children in the general population:
- 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%; and
- One third of previously looked after children are NEET (not in education, employment or training) at age 19.
The provision of state care is expensive, costing between £150,000 and £180,000 per annum for a child in residential care; and between £20,000 and £47,000 per annum for a child in foster care.
The scope of the problem is large and growing, both nationally and in Essex. Young people 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.
Structure of the Social Impact Bond Model
The Essex Social Impact Bond focuses on 11-16 year olds at the edge of care or custody in Essex, with the objective of providing support in order that the young people can safely remain at home with their families, with the aim of substantial improvements in their long term outcomes.
The core intervention funded by the Social Impact Bond is Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST). MST is an evidence-based programme with 30 years track record in North America and more recently in Northern Europe, Australia and New Zealand. There is emerging evidence of its effectiveness in the UK with seventeen sites now under licence. MST is a family therapy delivered in the home by highly qualified therapists, focused on improving parenting and rebuilding positive relationships within the family and between the family and the wider community. MST is a five month intervention which is oriented to equip families to manage future crisis situations and therefore delivers sustained impact. The Social Impact Bond will fund two MST teams to provide a county-wide service in Essex, which will work with around 380 young people and their families over the life of the programme. Action for Children has been selected as the MST service provider for the Essex Social Impact Bond.
The key metric on which outcome payments are made is the saving in aggregate care placement days for each MST cohort, benchmarked against a historical comparison group. This outcome will be measured by tracking care days saved over a 30 month period for each individual referred, starting at commencement of the MST service. The Social Impact Bond will seek to capture other key outcome metrics to measure the broader improvement in social outcomes for young people receiving the interventions. These will include school attendance, offending and measurements of emotional wellbeing.