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Outcomes for Children Improved With Social Benefit Bond

2 November 2016 at 9:49 am
Ellie Cooper
The Benevolent Society’s social benefit bond, which aims to keep children safe in their own homes, has delivered positive results for families and investors in its third year.

Ellie Cooper | 2 November 2016 at 9:49 am


Outcomes for Children Improved With Social Benefit Bond
2 November 2016 at 9:49 am

The Benevolent Society’s social benefit bond, which aims to keep children safe in their own homes, has delivered positive results for families and investors in its third year.

The $10 million bond recorded an improved overall financial performance and will theoretically deliver a 6 per cent return to capital-protected investors and 10.5 per cent to capital-exposed investors at the end of its five-year term.

Last year it was calculated that investors would receive 5 per cent to 8 per cent returns.

The Benevolent Society’s Resilient Families program also resulted in 21 per cent fewer children entering foster care compared to the control group. At the end of its second year, the program had resulted in 27 per cent fewer children entering foster care.

This year there were also 29 per cent fewer Helpline call reports, and the number of reports about families included in the intervention group declined 120 per cent compared to the control group.

Along with the bond’s financial and social measures, the program is showing positive results under the Resilience Practice Framework – the “family wellbeing” for those entering the program was recorded at 66.9 per cent and increased to 86.2 per cent on departure from the program.

The Benevolent Society’s executive director Annette Chennell told Pro Bono Australia News the program was defying the nation-wide trend of children entering out-of-home care.

“We’re working with a range of families that have children at risk of significant harm… and we can demonstrate that we’ve reduced the number of children entering out-of-home care by 21 per cent, and also reduced significantly the number of safety and risk assessments that are conducted for the children that we work with compared to a control group,” Chennell said.

“There’s a lot of indicators there that are showing that the children that we’re working with are experiencing a safer environment and are remaining safe with their families much more.

“Now the social impact of that… firstly there’s incredible impact for the families themselves, but… what we know is that… out-of-home care can have very adverse affects on the children long term.

“There’s a lot of evidence that shows that children living in out-of-home care go on to have poorer outcomes, such as educational outcomes and mental health outcomes, and end up behind the eight ball for much of their life.

“So being able to keep children safe at home not only improves the immediate outcome for that child and that family, but long term.”

She said the social impact of the bond also extended to the broader Australian society.

“We’re helping reduce the cost burden on the country [by] reducing the number of children in out-of-home care,” she said.

“We know that in New South Wales for instance there are over 17,000 children in out-of-home, and we know that it costs the country about $3.6 billion in the child protection system every year.

“So being able to reduce the number of children at risk, to reduce the number of children entering out-of-home care, we’re significantly impacting not only those children and their families but the community at large.”

The Benevolent Society’s bond, along with the Newpin bond, is one of the first in the country.

The New South Wales Government was the first jurisdiction to explore social investment, and developed the bond in partnership with Commonwealth and Westpac banks.

The deputy secretary of the NSW treasury, Caralee McLeish, said the bond was breaking new ground.

“One of the really special things about The Benevolent Society bond is that it is a new program, we haven’t tried this before and on top of it being a new program, a new service, we also have it funded through a new instrument, so it’s really innovative on a number of different levels,” McLeish said.

“What’s unique about the social benefit bond is that payments are made on the basis of the outcomes, so investors receive a return depending on whether in this case and the case of The Benevolent Society bond, they keep children safely with their families. That’s what it’s all about, getting the outcomes.

“I think that we’re getting most importantly great outcomes for families and children and that’s really helping to deliver on the NSW premier’s priorities to improve child protection. We’re also getting great outcomes for investors, we’re starting to see that and we’re getting great outcomes for government.”

In April this year the NSW Government announced it would expand its social impact investment program, and is currently developing a social impact bond to help reduce and prevent youth homelessness.

Chennell said it was unlikely the Resilient Families program could achieve the same results without an innovative financing model.

“There are services that do help families, but very few at this level of intensity, and we know for instance that the number of families requiring this help far, far exceeds the number of services available,” she said.

“So being able to finance this and have this innovative program has enabled us to do things that you can’t currently do in normal programs.

“For instance, families that work with us, they may work with us… for a year and leave the program once their plans and their goals have been met, but should there be any hiccup down the track, any stress or a new development that they need help with, they can just come straight back into the program. And we can also receive data from family and community services that also gives us an alert if perhaps there is some possible issue or some risk and we can offer our services again.

“That capacity to stay with a family… has been a really important part of this process.

“So in essence, could you do it another way? You’d have to find the funding I think, and being able to have the funding through the investors and in association with our banks and the government has just enabled us to develop this intensive program to enable it to be innovative and flexible, and we’re getting great results.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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