Case Study: Essex Social Impact Bond

girl playing guitarAction for Children delivers Multi-systemic Therapy (MST) to adolescents and their families through a social impact bond with Essex County Council. Andrew Levitt, of Bridges Ventures, describes the three biggest contributions of the performance management system as they try to maximise the impact of the program:

  1. Getting referrals of the right sort of children from Essex County Council. We discovered that Essex weren’t referring enough children who would most benefit from the intervention, due to a combination of things, including competing priorities of senior staff and referral staff not knowing the program existed, or who and how to refer. Solving this problem would not usually fall in the remit of a service provider, but our performance managers went into the council to do a marketing push and went right up to a senior level to change the way they were referring.  The board is also considering whether to add an additional “marketing” function to the service, to ensure that the barriers to referral are continually being addressed proactively.
  2. Managing the performance of the therapists in the team. The performance management function oversees a set of KPI’s that tracks the quality of therapists’ work with families. The performance manager uses these data to ensure that service quality is maintained at all times and to problem solve any barriers to this.
  3. Addressing operational stretch. The first year of the program threw up some challenges where the therapist teams were over-stretched due to a combination of staff turnover, overlapping periods of annual leave and unexpected extended sick leave. We used the performance management function to track therapist utilisation to understand the extent of the problem. We took a two pronged approach in response: first, to look at performance rewards and retention incentives to attract and retain quality staff; and, second, to add additional capacity to mitigate the impact of further staff turnover within the teams. We are trying this out to see if it makes for a steadier service, despite it being an unusual step for MST teams.

We can say in these three areas with 100% certainty that the performance management has delivered. It’s not just about data. It’s about taking action to get better outcomes for beneficiaries, but you can’t force people to take action unless you have good data.