A new way to look at a tough problem

The Queensland Government’s first social bond that seeks to reduce reoffending by young people has been launched by Life Without Barriers and NAB.

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Recidivism isn’t a common word in our world, but it’s an important social issue that many in our communities work hard to combat. It refers to the tendency of convicted criminals to reoffend.

The social costs of recidivism are obviously high, as are the financial costs, particularly for governments.  Governments provide a lot of money to programs that aim to reduce recidivism in their communities, and the process of a person going in and out of jail is costly too. Keeping people out of jail is good for families, communities and the economy.

A team at NAB has been working on new ways to help governments fund programs that try to reduce the number of people reoffending. One way is a recidivism bond, a type of social benefit bond.

NAB launched one of these bonds this week. It aims to reduce the risk of young people in Queensland reoffending and returning to jail.

How does it work?

NAB has used our experience and relationships in the financial markets to find investors that will contribute about $8 million to set up Queensland’s first Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) program for young people at risk of reoffending.

The program will be run by social purpose organisation Life Without Barriers, which does incredible work across Australia providing social services and support to children, young people, families, people with disability, older people and people with mental illness.

The MST program will target high risk young people aged 10 to 16 years in Brisbane and surrounding areas, including the Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and the Gold Coast. It helps young offenders and their families deal with family functioning, school participation rates and substance abuse. The therapy is conducted in the home at times that suit the offender and the family.

When the program successfully reduces the number of young Queenslanders reoffending and returning to jail, which I have no doubt it will, some of the savings the Queensland Government makes from less people going in and out of jail will be used to repay investors.

This social benefit bond is essentially a new way to think about a tough problem facing our society, and our governments. Most importantly, it supports people in our communities that are most at risk.

Congratulations to the team at NAB that have worked on this bond, and to Life Without Barriers and the Queensland Government on the launch.