Where next for social investment?

19 May 2015

With the election of the new Conservative government, we can expect to see a continued emphasis on different ways of commissioning and funding public services. The enthusiasm for contracts that have at least an element of payment by results (PbR) has been growing across different administrations for some time but grew to new heights during the coalition years.

Not only did we have the Work Programme and more recently the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts in probation, but many more local contracts started to have this element in them.

It is partly for this reason that coalition ministers – especially the Tories – started to become interested in social investment. They wanted charities and others to be some of the providers of public services but knew that their ability to bid for and win contracts that had payment in arrears and with risk attached – as PbR contracts imply – was very limited. Allowing them to fund this with loan money, but at below market rates (aka social investment), looked good indeed. So the rhetoric was turned up with DWP boss Ian Duncan Smith declaring: ‘We cannot underestimate the difference social investment could make.’

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