Social Benefit Bond Continues to Keep Children Safe
31 October 2017 at 5:07 pm
The Benevolent Society’s social benefit bond, which works to prevent children entering out-of-home care, has revealed positive results in its fourth year for families and investors.
The Benevolent Society’s Resilient Families program is a five-year intensive family support service, funded by private and institutional investors and developed in partnership with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Institutional Bank, NSW Treasury and the NSW Department of Family and Child Services (FACS).
Resilient Families improved on its results from last year, recording a performance percentage of 24 per cent compared to the indicative 19 per cent reported in their previous investor report.
The Benevolent Society’s executive director of child and family services, Matt Gardiner, told Pro Bono News that the social benefit bond had achieved its strongest results yet.
“The results have improved year on year, as we’ve honed the model and improved our service delivery,” Gardiner said.
“Our job is to make sure that these really fantastic results are sustained throughout the five year period.
“The results we are achieving here are as good as any other program around the world, in terms of family support services.”
According to the latest results the program supported 59 per cent more families to stay safely together compared to a control group of similar families, with an overall 89 per cent preservation rate for families referred to Resilient Families.
The bond has also grown its projected return to investors, with a theoretical return of 7 per cent for capital-protected investors and 15 per cent for capital-exposed class investors when the bond finishes in 2018.
This compares to a 6 per cent return to capital-protected investors and 10.5 per cent return to capital-exposed investors projected last year.
Gardiner said Resilient Families had improved the safety and wellbeing of 289 families since 2013.
“The Resilient Families team has done an incredible job. Through our program of Intensive Family Support, they have powerfully and positively impacted hundreds of families and changed the life trajectory of the children,” Gardiner said.
“It underscores our strategic focus of ensuring children remain safe and well with their families and avoid unnecessary removal into out-of-home care, because research indicates time and again that children do better in their own homes where it’s possible to keep them there.”
There are more than 20,000 children in NSW who live in out-of-home care, which is almost half of the 46,000 children across Australia in this situation, according to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The Resilient Families program works with families referred to them by FACS, in cases where a family is expecting a child or has at least one child under six years old who may be at risk of harm.
Caseworkers work with parents at risk of having their children removed, to help parents address the risk factors putting their children in danger.
This intensive, in-home support to families is provided for up to 12 months, including 24/7 support during an initial 12-week intensive period.
NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that collaboration across sectors was vital and the key to the program’s success.
“As the first state to pilot social impact investing, NSW is leading the way in working with business and the non-government sector to tackle longstanding social issues in new and effective ways,” Perrottet said.
“The program Resilient Families is made possible through this partnership and over the life of this bond, we have seen the lives of many children changed for the better.”
Commonwealth Bank managing director of debt markets, Simon Ling, added: “We are proud to be working with The Benevolent Society on this important project. This innovative funding structure was designed as a pilot project and our success to date helps to further illustrate that the concept of social impact investing works for all stakeholders.
“The challenge we all face now is how best to take this pilot and scale it to help more communities in the future.”
Gardiner said The Benevolent Society was currently unsure if the program would continue after the bond ended next year.
“The funding we receive to run the program is finishing, but we’re certainly hoping that the NSW government will look to continue with the program,” he said.
“But at this stage, the government has invested in other models from the US. So while we’re hopeful that something might come of it, we’re uncertain.
“Being a large organisation, we’re looking at other states as well and have had some interest… we are pretty close to formalising an agreement to deliver this program in another state.”
Gardiner added that once the value of social benefit bonds were proven, they should be expanded to maximise their community impact.
“Delivering a social benefit bond is wonderful for the length of the bond, but it’s really to demonstrate those savings to government. In the context of a $1 billion spend [in] out-of-home care in NSW, a $10 million bond in itself isn’t really going to make a difference,” he said.
“When these things are proven, it’s then taking this to a much larger scale that will really deliver the savings to government that these programs are designed to achieve.”
This follows the continued success of Australia’s first social impact bond, the Uniting Newpin Social Benefit Bond, which has also recently recorded positive growth for the fourth year in a row.