Essex Edge of Care

A social impact bond providing therapeutic support for 389 adolescents.

The Essex Edge of Care social impact bond (SIB) ran between 2013-18 and was successful in its aims:

  • It achieved a 43-percentage-point reduction in care days from the baseline of 55% to 11.92%, significantly reducing the time spent in care against the counterfactual expectations.
  • 386 children were out of care, with their family, at the end of the tracking period.
  • 85% completion rate

Social investors received a return of 1.45 times committed capital of £3.1 million.

These outcomes were sustained:

  • While 91% of the cohort had social care provision in the two years prior to MST, only 41 young people (11%) had provision in the year post-MST. 41 young people (11% of cases) were in care 28 months after MST provision finished.

Local authorities across the country face the challenge of how best to support vulnerable children and families in their areas. While priority must be given to safeguarding children, budgets for prevention can be squeezed out. Local Authority Commissioners are often looking at how they can better manage demand for care placements and couple this with more targeted effective prevention support to families.

Adolescents often end up in care due to anti-social or challenging behaviour where their parents just can’t cope. There are evidence-based family support therapies that have proven track record in helping identify and address the trigger points for problematic behaviour. However, many local authorities cannot access these services either due to cost pressures or they lack sufficient scale to make the service worthwhile.

Why we are doing this: 

In the years prior to the social impact bond, there had been higher numbers of young people in care in Essex than both the national average and statistically comparable local authorities, with a predominance of older adolescents.

  • Once a child aged 11 to 16 went into care in Essex, it was likely they would spend more than 80% of the rest of their childhood in care.
  • Placing children in out-of-home care is expensive, with costs ranging from £20,000 to £300,000 per year per individual.
What we are doing: 

Social Finance designed and manages a £3.1m social impact bond to deliver a five year Multi-Systemic Therapy programme to 380 adolescents at the edge of care in Essex so that they can remain safely at home with their families. It is funded by social investors whose investment is entirely at risk if the intervention fails to achieve its goals. The therapeutic intervention is being delivered by the national charity, Action for Children. Essex County Council social services refer young people aged 11 to 16 at risk of entering the care system to the service, who display anti-social, offending behaviour or other conduct disorders. Intensive Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) is delivered over a period of 3-5 months to young people and their parents by specially qualified therapists, who work with around ten families per year providing 24/7 support. MST is an evidence-based programme that seeks to improve parenting and rebuild positive family relationships, enabling families to manage future crisis situations themselves. An innovation of the social impact bond is a budget for flexible funding where additional practical support can make the difference to families. This might allow for a family day out or pay for some furniture that the household needs. The success of the social impact bond is measured by the reduction in days spent in care, as well as improved school outcomes, wellbeing and reduced reoffending.

This SIB has now come to an end, and we held an event to share the learnings and findings on the outcomes – find out more.


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