Lankelly Chase welcomes the latest 9.7% fall in the reoffending rate of people finishing short sentences at Peterborough Prison. They achieved this with rehabilitation support provided by the One Service, an umbrella group of voluntary organisations, funded through the Peterborough Social Impact Bond. The One Service has demonstrated that intensive, relational support can help those in the greatest difficulties achieve positive change in their lives. These are people who are otherwise left to cycle hopelessly around the prison, homelessness and drug treatments systems, resulting in great misery and cost, both to themselves and others.
As investors in the Peterborough Social Impact Bond, Lankelly Chase views the achievements of the One Service as an encouraging sign that a whole system approach to people facing severe and multiple disadvantages is both possible and financially credible. The decision to discontinue the scheme and introduce a different model nationally is an opportunity missed and risks losing crucial lessons from the One Service about how to do this kind of work properly. We must look beyond the headline story to the learning about which elements of practice made a real difference to people’s lives. What Lankelly Chase saw was a highly relational approach that adapted to feedback, reflected on failure and success, promoted coproduction with people serving sentences, and strived to achieve a consistent approach across different parts of the system.
Alongside this, it is equally critical that we continue to develop the financial mechanisms that would allow this kind of practice to flourish. The Peterborough social impact bond enabled the frontline to look beyond input measures to the outcomes that were important to the people themselves. It is hotly contested whether social impact bonds are ultimately the right financial mechanism to drive public service reform, whether they can be scaled, and whether they introduce perverse effects of their own. However, the noise around this debate should not distract us from a collective focus on the system conditions that would allow clear accountability for money and outcomes while freeing and supporting frontline staff and volunteers to do what they do best. This presents a direct and urgent challenge to most models of commissioning, and this needs to be faced whether or not you believe social investment has a significant role to play.
For further information, see the Social Finance press release.