Reducing Youth Offending Social Bond Pilot: Evaluation report

Published: August 16, 2021

This report explores the findings from the first evaluation of the Reducing Youth Offending Social Bond Pilot.


Social bonds are an innovative way for governments to contract for social outcomes that is in line with a social investment approach. Social bonds see private organisations partner to fund and deliver services to improve social outcomes. The return for investors depends on the extent the agreed results are achieved.

In 2013 the Ministry of Health (MOH), with support from Treasury, initiated a pilot to test the viability and use of social bonds in New Zealand. MOH undertook an extensive procurement process to identify potential service providers, partnerships, and proposals for pilots. One of the two proposals that resulted in an agreement is the Reducing Youth Offending Social Bond.

In 2017 Oranga Tamariki entered into a six-year Social Bond agreement with Genesis Youth Trust (Genesis) to deliver a programme designed to reduce the frequency and severity of youth reoffending in South Auckland. The agreement is for Genesis to provide the programme to a maximum of 1000 young people over five years, with an additional year to monitor outcomes for the last cohort.

Payment under the outcome agreement is based on a change in the young person’s risk of reoffending as measured by a specific tool, the Youth Level Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI™) (an intermediate measure) and the change in reoffending frequency and severity (an outcome measure).

Key findings

How the Social Bonds contractual arrangement is operating

  • Interviewed stakeholders had differing views on the benefits and disadvantages of social investment, influenced by their views on the ethics and morality of ‘private investment in the public good.’
  • The procurement process was complex and took several years.
  • The resulting Social Bond Pilot agreement is complex but working. A challenge has been the lack of ability to review the measures in the agreement that are the foundation for payments. Rapid organisational change and pressure to meet enrolment targets also put pressure on staff.
  • However, the outcomes focus of the contract has provided a foundation for innovation in the use of evidence-based tools to guide practice, data to monitor progress, longer duration of support, and development of multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Consultation with Māori and Strategic Partners is required to explore whether and how a Social Bond model and contracting approach would work in a kaupapa Māori context, and if there is any interest in pursuing this approach.

How the Genesis Youth Trust programme is operating

  • Genesis support young people for two-years: an initial intensive intervention phase; and a less intensive follow-up phase. The Genesis team provides support to rangatahi around education, development of skills that will help with employment, one to one mentoring, counselling, and referral to other organisations and specialist services such as addiction services.
  • Rangatahi Māori were 71% of those enrolled with Genesis.
  • Genesis currently rely on staff personal networks and informal links to iwi and providers to connect rangatahi to their cultural identity.
  • Lack of access to rangatahi and whānau limited the evaluation.
  • Overall, the Social Bond Pilot is supporting young people as intended although referrals and enrolments are lower than the contracted maximums.
  • Participants’ likelihood of reoffending, number of offences (if any), and offence severity all declined following enrolment. This was true for both Māori and non-Māori participants.
  • However, it is too soon to draw quantitative conclusions about the effectiveness of the programme on offending related outcomes. This will be explored in a forthcoming outcomes evaluation.