Victorian government launches first social impact bond

The Victorian government has launched the state’s first social impact bond (SIB), aimed at reducing chronic homelessness.

The Andrews Labor government has this week launched the J2SI SIB, which will fund the expansion of Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program. The J2SI program supports participants in maintaining long-term, stable accommodation and reduce their interactions with health services.

The expanded program will be rolled out over three years, commencing in August 2018.

Sacred Heart Mission will speak to investors over the next few months about providing guarantees for the bond, which will see investments in rapid access to housing and long-term intensive case management, according to an announcement from Minster for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley.

“This collaboration between government, Sacred Heart Mission and private investors is an absolute game-changer to tackle chronic homelessness,” Foley said. “The Journey to Social Inclusion pilot programs have already had promising results – helping Victorians maintain housing and reduce their contact with health services.”

The J2SI program takes a “housing first” approach, supporting people to get and sustain housing. The J2SI SIB will fund the expansion of the program starting August 2018, which will see a total of 180 participants – 60 per year for three years – who will receive support for three years. Under the terms of the structure, Sacred Heart Mission and investors will receive payment from government if specific outcomes are achieved.
“SHM has been developing, piloting, modifying, evaluating and scaling J2SI for over 10 years,” said Cathy Humphrey, CEO of Sacred Heart Mission. “This has been achieved through extensive research by SHM and others on the causes and consequences of long-term homelessness, and the rigorous testing of the J2SI intervention though randomised control trials to ensure people can escape the cycle of chronic homelessness.”

Sacred Heart Mission’s J2SI program is delivered “using a trauma-informed model with assertive intensive support including helping to build skills for pathways to employment, training, education and volunteering, and ultimately fostering independence,” Sacred Heart Mission said. Housing has been negotiated as part of the service delivery and will be provided through head leasing arrangements with housing providers.

The J2SI bond would complement other Victorian Government programs and would not replace existing services. This is not the first time that the Andrews government has funded the J2SI program. In 2016, Minster Foley announced the government would allocate funding of $1.2 million over three years to J2SI.