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Social impact bonds in the UK homeless sector: perspectives of front-line link workers

Thomas George (School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Jim Rogers (School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Amanda Roberts (School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)

Housing, Care and Support

ISSN: 1460-8790

Article publication date: 25 November 2020

Issue publication date: 4 December 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Social impact bonds (SIBs) have become a favoured way to fund public services, including housing, prison and homelessness projects, in an era of austerity. In a growing critical literature on SIBs, a largely absent voice is that of the link worker. This paper aims to focus on the views of link workers in a SIB funded project which works with long-term entrenched rough sleepers in the East of England.

Design/methodology/approach

Interviews with link workers were conducted with a thematic analysis echoing many of the views expressed in the critical literature not only about the problems but also some of the advantages that SIBs offer to this type of project.

Findings

Three key themes were discomfort with the funding mechanism; flexible and innovative interventions that SIBs make possible; and problems with the outcome measures that trigger payments. This study concludes that if SIBs are to achieve their promise of providing funding which leads to effective solutions to deeply ingrained social problems, there needs to be more careful evaluation of their true benefits in comparison to publicly funded projects, adoption of more appropriate and project-specific outcome measures and a much clearer explanation and justification of the way in which SIB funding works.

Originality/value

Few studies have specifically explored the perceptions of front-line link workers in the homelessness sector. This study highlights not only the concerns but also the benefits associated with the use of SIB as a funding mechanism within the homelessness sector.

Keywords

Citation

George, T., Rogers, J. and Roberts, A. (2020), "Social impact bonds in the UK homeless sector: perspectives of front-line link workers", Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 23 No. 3/4, pp. 123-134. https://doi.org/10.1108/HCS-08-2020-0011

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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