In July 2015 the Queensland Treasury released three Social Benefit Bonds, in recognition of the need to try a different approach to tackling challenging social issues. The Youth CONNECT Social Benefit Bond is the first in the world to focus on improving the life chances of young people transitioning from state care into adulthood and independence in the general community.

In essence, a Social Benefit Bond is an outcomes-based arrangement involving government, private investors and a service provider. It is a form of Social Impact Investment, seeking to create both financial returns and positive social impacts that are measured in terms of financial and social impacts. Specifically, it involves:

  • private investors providing the initial capital to cover the cost of delivering a service (or an intervention) by a service provider to improve or deliver a defined social outcome
  • service provision or intervention that is aimed at early intervention or prevention to avoid or limit the severity of the social issue for the people in the target population
  • the government paying private investors their principal investment and a financial return if the agreed social outcome has been achieved and verified, at the end of the contracted period (which can be five to 10 years).

Over the next 3 weeks, In the Spotlight will showcase Queensland’s Social Benefit Bonds through articles contributed by the organisations responsible for their delivery. This week, Churches of Christ Care details Youth CONNECT.

The facts at a glance

Research shows that young people leaving statutory care are significantly more likely to experience housing instability or homelessness, be unemployed and earn lower wages, have poorer educational outcomes (including early school leaving), be involved in the criminal justice system, experience poor physical and mental health, and have issues with substance abuse.2

  • 35% will be homeless within one year, and more than 50% will have experienced homelessness within five years
  • 29% will be unemployed
  • 47% will have some involvement with the criminal justice system
  • 53% will only complete Year 10 or below; 35% will complete Year 12 at school; 22% will have unacceptably low literacy and numeracy levels
  • 53% will experience substance abuse
  • 53% will experience clinically significant emotional and behavioural difficulties
  • 28%-33% will be pregnant or parents themselves when they leave care — 54% of their children will be removed from them and placed on care and protection orders – perpetuating the intergenerational experience of placement in state care.

‘Homelessness’ Social Benefit Bond to focus on supporting young people leaving care

Young people leaving statutory care, are one of the most disadvantaged groups in our society and are particularly vulnerable to homelessness.

While the high vulnerability of young care leavers is clearly documented and understood, the critical resources and supports needed to significantly improve their life outcomes, are historically limited and somewhat disjointed.

To address this issue, Churches of Christ in Queensland (CofCQ) is trialing a new, holistic, and evidence-based approach in partnership with the Queensland Government.

Youth CONNECT

The Youth CONNECT program will provide support to some of the State’s most vulnerable youths with highly challenging backgrounds and complex needs. It is one of three programs currently being delivered under the Queensland Government’s Social Benefit Bonds Pilot Program. A Social Benefit Bond is an outcomes-based arrangement involving the government, private investors and a service provider[1].

Youth CONNECT is the first social benefit bond in the world to specifically tackle the issue of homelessness experienced by a significant proportion of young people transitioning from statutory care to independence and adulthood.

The program will focus on young people aged 15 to 18 years old, who have left or are leaving the child protection system and those that are 15 – 25 years old, who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or exiting custody who have a history of contact with the child protection system.

It will focus on providing the foundations to success in the form of affordable accommodation that is safe and appropriate to young people’s needs, as well as intensive support services to assist them with employment, education and personal development. The program’s goal is to ensure participants end up with better living conditions, enhanced participation in education and the workforce, better mental health outcomes, stronger personal relationships, and improved social integration.

Youth CONNECT is initially being delivered as a pilot program, and will support up to 300 young people over a six-year period. The program is currently offered in south east Queensland (south of the Brisbane River to the New South Wales border, and from Ipswich to Toowoomba) and the Townsville region (including Townsville, Ingham, Charters Towers and Ayr).

A ‘Housing first’ approach

Helping young people leaving statutory care to find and maintain stable, affordable, and appropriate housing is the cornerstone of the Youth CONNECT program. The ‘housing first’ approach recognises the importance of stable and secure housing to prevent immediate homelessness and provide a sense of safety — giving the young person an opportunity to focus on other important life-building skills.

Youth CONNECT participants, with support from a case manager and housing officer, are matched with an appropriate accommodation solution and assisted to remain in stable accommodation whilst they complete the program. There are three main accommodation types:

  • shared or single tenancy of a private rental property under a Churches of Christ Queensland head lease arrangement
  • shared or single tenancy of a Churches of Christ Queensland-owned property, or property owned by partnering organisations
  • self-identified accommodation, for those instances where a young person has already secured safe accommodation but requires support to remain in it

Support to improve resilience

Importantly, participants are supported through the delivery of a comprehensive case management framework built on therapeutic and practical strategies and actions. This framework enhances resilience factors evidenced to significantly improve life outcomes and sustain long-term health and wellbeing, while reducing the risk of future homelessness3. Specific wrap-around services include:

  • Education and work-readiness – re-engaging in education, training and employment opportunities.
  • Employment – finding a reliable source of income, connecting with skilled mentors.
  • Personal development – working with the young person to develop their own safety net and community, and skills to operate in the world, including support to:
    • Improve mental and physical health and well-being
    • Increase self-advocacy
    • Develop critical life skills like financial management
    • Decrease involvement with the justice system
    • Develop positive and sustainable connection to social support networks, community and culture so they know they are not alone when things go wrong.

In combination, these supports will help young care leavers enjoy better living conditions, enhanced participation in education and the workforce, better mental health outcomes, stronger personal relationships and improved social integration.