Rob Wilson – 2016 Speech on Launch of Life Chances Fund


Below is the text of the speech made by Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, at the University of Oxford on 4 July 2016.

Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming and thanks also to the Blavatnik Institute for hosting us.

I’m sure I’m not the only person here who was looking forward to a quiet summer.

Euro football, a visit to Wimbledon perhaps, a bit of Test match cricket, maybe even a chance to catch up on some reading, that was my hope!

Unfortunately my summer reading now appears to include the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU referendum has of course changed everything.

But in a more profound sense its changed nothing.

And this is my message to you today: whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead, our work continues.

We are still the same one nation government, working to build a bigger and stronger society; working to extend hope and opportunity to those who need them most.

But the EU Referendum did demonstrate that big questions, built up over many decades, are present in our country.

Six years ago we began the task of tackling this by building a bigger, stronger society with compassion at its heart. It is true that we need to do more, to redouble our efforts, but I am proud of our achievements to date: Giving is increasing, the social economy is thriving.

We created the world’s first social investment bank in Big Society Capital which has already made almost £600 million available to charities and social enterprises.

And over 1 million people in the UK now give regularly, a total of £11billion each year.

Social action is helping to transform lives: it contributes £34billion each year to public services, adding an extra one-sixth to state spending on education, health and local services.

200,000 young people have taken part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) and alone they have given more than 8 million hours of service to their communities. We hope to see 100,000 more young people take part in NCS this summer.

And communities are stepping up: the 6,500 community organisers we have recruited to date have supported over 400 neighbourhoods to take action on the things that matter to them most.

There is much more we can and plan to do. Our expansion of the National Citizen Service will guarantee a place for all young people, with 60% of eligible young people participating each year by 2020.

We will expand community organisers to 10,000 and we are preparing programmes to grow volunteering by older people, increase volunteering in health, and getting business involved in driving youth skills.

Public services that get results are increasingly absolutely key to our task of building a bigger and stronger society that supports the people who need them the most.

Public services that get results

That means staying relentlessly focused on the people in this country who haven’t had a fair shot in life. The child in care with the odds stacked against them; the repeat offender who can’t read or write; the troubled families who spend half their lives with the government in their living room – Because they, more than anyone, need us to get results.

And that’s exactly what we together, have to deliver.

Too often in the past government has approached the most difficult social challenges by finding the money, designing the programme and concluding job done. Spending money rather than investing it.

But doing something isn’t the same as solving something.

What we’ve learnt over the last 6 years is that the test of a good social programme isn’t how much you spend but how well you invest it.

In short, how many lives you change.

It’s why paying for outcomes is at the heart of our commitment to improving the life chances of the most disadvantaged in our society.

Everyone here knows the cost of social failure: £30,000 a year for a first time offender; sometimes over £100,000 a year to support a child in care.

But success can also be measured.

It’s the child in care who finds a stable, adoptive family; the repeat offender who leaves prison with an English GCSE; the troubled families who get the help they need to get their lives back on track.

Not only do these programmes change lives for the better, they also save huge amounts of money.

By paying for outcomes, we can cut the cost of failure.

Paying for results gets results

And we know that paying for results really does get results. I’ve seen it for myself all over the country.

Take Worcestershire.

Its Reconnections Programme is all about tackling loneliness and isolation.

It deploys an army of volunteers across the county, who work with older people to build their confidence and reconnect them to social activities – from lunch clubs to libraries.

It’s all paid for by £850,000 of social investment, wrapped up in a Social Impact Bond that only pays out when the programme delivers a measurable reduction in loneliness.

Later this afternoon you’ll hear how a similar approach in Birmingham is helping troubled young people move from residential care to stable and supportive family placements.

But there are many other examples from across the UK.

The Peterborough Social Impact Bond, or SIB, achieved an 8 percentage point reduction in reoffending among short sentence prisoners leaving prison.

The London Rough Sleeping SIB has helped over half of its 830 participants to achieve improved outcomes, including sustained stable accommodation, employment, or reconnection to their home country.

Or look at the Essex SIB, which has helped 200 young people on the edge of the care system stay safely with their families.

Paying for outcomes works because it allows us to focus on what really matters.

It concentrates minds on prevention and early intervention. It frees charities and social enterprises to use their expertise to deliver services that really work.

And when things don’t work, it gives a clear incentive to stop, think again, adapt and refine until they do.

It really is a win-win for commissioners, providers, investors and communities.

We’ve already backed 32 SIBs, and we can be incredibly proud that we’re world leaders in this field.

But now we need to go bigger and better.

We’ve built the prototype, proven the concept – the task now is to scale the model up – so we can help even more of our fellow citizens lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Life Chances Fund

That’s what the government’s £80 million Life Chances Fund is all about.

The basic idea is simple.

Whitehall gains some of the benefit from payment by results, so Whitehall should front some of the cost.

For example, we invested £700,000 from our Social Outcomes Fund – the forerunner of the Life Chances Fund – in Worcestershire’s Reconnections Programme, recognising that less loneliness means less pressure on additional care provision funded by the welfare system.

The early indications are that Reconnections is having a significant impact – with clear reductions in the levels of measured loneliness for those going through the programme.

The new Life Chances Fund will build on the work of the Social Outcomes Fund, providing a top-up for outcomes that generate savings for us.

From today you can apply for a share of that £80 million fund – which I hope we can add to in the future. It will contribute to you getting SIBs that tackle deep-rooted issues, off the ground, and in doing so improving the life chances of our most vulnerable citizens.

The Fund is structured around 6 key themes: drug and alcohol dependency, children’s services, early years, young people, older people’s services, healthy lives.

The Life Chances Fund will aim to make contributions of around 20% to local SIBs, but it could contribute more if you can make the case.

Applications for proposals focusing on children’s services and tackling drug and alcohol dependency are now open. These will be followed by the other themes over the next 12 months.

Through the Life Chances Fund we have a huge opportunity to revolutionise our public services to focus on achieving positive outcomes for people.

The Social Impact Bond market could be worth £1 billion by the end of the Parliament if we can create momentum.

I am committed to harnessing their power in the service of social progress. Today we are making a downpayment on that commitment.

GO Lab

But it doesn’t end there.

You will also hear this afternoon from Ngaire and her team about the Government Outcomes Lab that we’re launching today, in partnership with the Blavatnik School of Government.

The GO Lab will provide expert support to local commissioners looking to use SIBs to transform lives.

So this is a system of end-to-end support, from helping you draw up your initial ideas to funding the final outcomes.

It’s about central and local government, academia and the voluntary sector – all coming together to work at tackling some of the most entrenched social challenges we face.

Over to you

So the question for commissioners is this: what part will you play in the social investment revolution?

I want you to use this afternoon to start thinking about which social challenges in your communities could benefit from an outcomes-based approach.

From children in care to elderly care, drug and alcohol dependency, to youth unemployment – you have it in your power to make a difference, get results, and save money.

So make use of the materials and support that the GO Lab will be working up and get your expressions of interest into the Life Chances Fund.

And for the voluntary sector providers and social investors out there, I want you to talk to your commissioners about the ideas you have for transforming local services.

And remember that it’s often the simplest ideas that can have the greatest impact.


So we’ve taken clear action to help you seize this opportunity.

And we stand ready to work with you to help you transform your local public services.

This is the start of a fundamental shift, from fixating on process to focusing on outcomes, from stifling creativity to rewarding innovation.

Finding out what works, getting results, saving money, changing lives.

The divides that the referendum has revealed make a strong civil society even more important. We all have a part to play in knitting the country back together.

I haven’t backed a candidate yet in the Conservative Party leadership election, but I am passionate about social mobility and giving people a chance in life. It’s what brought me into politics.

The next PM must have civil society and social mobility, that hope to get on and move up in life, at the centre of their agenda.

Now, more than ever, people facing the most challenging problems need a government relentlessly focused on improving their lives.

I’m looking forward to working with you to make that happen.