Social Impact Bonds have become a key part of the local government vocabulary over the past couple of years. Commissioners up and down the country are looking at them as the answer to the riddle of how preventative services can be funded at the same time as budgets across the public sector face an unprecedented squeeze. So far the outlook is increasingly positive.
I joined Social Finance in 2012 just as the organisation was launching the UK’s first local authority SIB in Essex – an innovative approach which will improve outcomes for adolescents on the edge of care while making much needed savings for the council. The government followed this with the launch of a £20m Social Outcomes Fund to support further SIBs, particularly those that are co-commissioned. There are now more councils looking at how they can use the SIB model, and not just in children’s services. Health and social care and complex families are showing potential as areas in which social investment could fund essential preventative work.
The Social Outcomes Fund is only one part of the jigsaw when it comes to expanding the SIB market. Having worked in various roles across local government, I have also seen that there is a need to share learning across the sector about the practicalities of using new approaches such as this. Developing a SIB is not straightforward but with the development of the Essex SIB, many of the challenges that will be face by other organisations have already been answered.
In light of this, we have produced a Technical Guide to Developing a Social Impact Bond in children’s services. It’s a guide that draws on the experiences and learning from those involved in the development of the Essex SIB and offers a step-by-step guide to other organisations looking to develop their own SIB. We hope that it serves as a useful guide for the sector, and we will continue to share our on-going learning as we develop new SIBs. If you have any questions about the guide, or would like to discuss the potential for a SIB in your organisation, we’d be very pleased to hear from you.
By Tom Symons, Associate at Social Finance