A call for the greater use of social investment

We are an advocate for the use of social investment in the delivery/development of public services. We are unsure why social investment remains a ‘minority sport’ in local government. Our experience suggests:

  1. Social investment falls through the gaps between the commissioner, finance and Heads of Service
  2. Politicians and commissioners are too focus is often on the financial mechanism rather than the wider benefits of the model
  3. Intervention are not being effectively embedded within ‘business as usual’ practice – it’s seen as a bolt on
  4. There remains mistrust of ‘shadowy investors’, despite the mutual gain, social purpose and transparency of most social investors
  5. Identifying the accurate cost/benefit of an intervention can be complex

So, given these issues, should social investment remain at the margins or can it be brought into the mainstream? Our view is that there a number of achievable actions that can bring social investment further into the fold:

  1. Look at scale, and show more ambition towards opportunities for social investment, particularly in areas of high demand
  2. Improved analysis, and promotion of the evidence of impact, including the wider benefits of involving social investors and third-party providers on driving performance
  3. A further round of the Life Chances fund, to act as a clear incentive for Local Authorities to scale-up activity aligned to priority areas for reform

Given the budget challenge through to 2020/2021 for many authorities, the time has come to scale up alternative funding and delivery models to deliver better outcomes at lower cost. Social investment, and the innovation it brings, should be a much bigger part of the local government armoury in tackling today’s budget and demand challenges.