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The latest research, policy, practice and opinion on our criminal justice and drug & alcohol treatment systems


This section of the PbR resource pack collates the latest developments in the world of payment by results. It includes both fact — reports and policy announcements — and opinion.

News and views

PbR reading list with a focus on international development from the team verifying and evaluating DFID’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme. (16 March 2017)

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed that it is reviewing the use of payment-by-results in its controversial Troubled Families programme, after warnings that the model created perverse incentives for councils signed up to the scheme. (10 March 2017)

New £420k Social Impact Bond in Lambeth. This looks like an excellent example of a SIB suitable for PbR involving a specialist provider training children with learning disabilities to travel independently to school; current cost is £6k per pupil per year. (1 Feb 2017)

Can PbR raise the bar for downward accountability? Another excellent blog post from the WASH evaluation team looks at balancing evaluation of PbR outcomes and the need for beneficiary feedback (10 November 2016).

Dan Corry of NPC wrote an autopsy of the Trouble Families programme which points out the dangers of PbR being used with the wrong outcomes (10 November 2016)

Jonathan Portes, one of the lead authors of the Troubled Families evaluation, explains in a personal blog how the Troubled Families programme was a policy disaster (18 October 2016)

National evaluation of the Troubled Families programme finally published (17 October 2016). Seven reports with conflicting findings.

What to know before you sign a payment by results contract. Summary of key learning from Harvard Business Review (5 September 2016)

Weighing up the benefits and costs of verifying PbR outcomes. Another excellent post from the team verifying and evaluating DFID’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). (25 July 2016)

Government responsibility for PbR has been transferred from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport — where May government thinks Civil Society should reside. (21 July 2016)

Reform Think Tank new report seeks to influence design of Work and Health programme and recommends heavy (up to 90%) PbR contract (13 July 2016)

PbR is very effective at “incentivising delivery at scale” in the international development sector. So says, the latest blog for the team verifying and evaluating DFID’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme. (11 July 2016)

According to Third Sector, Big Society Capital lost £6.8m in 2015, including £3.6m investment losses. However, this was expected: “the company will be loss-making while it builds the market and makes early-stage investments. In later years, as the portfolio matures, the investments are forecast to make returns to cover the operational and market-championing costs and generate a financial return.” (7 July 2016)

The Government has launched (4 July 2016) the Life Chances Fund, an £80 million pot which aims to stimulate Social Investment and outcome-based commissioning. £30 million is earmarked for drug & alcohol dependency with 5 other themes stipulated: children’s services, early years, young people, older people’s services and healthy lives.

Toby Lowe & Kathy Evans argue on the NCVO site that PbR does not work in real-life situations in an article entitled: Paying for data production (14 June 2016)

The Economist says that although PbR is much criticised, it is wrong to conclude it has failed (3 June 2016)

Duncan Green in a blog for Oxfam asks why international aid donors are so keen on PbR (23 March 2016)

In his budget George Osborne stated that he will double the rough sleeping Social Impact Bond from £5m to £10m (16 March 2016)

In addition to the research listed and summarised elsewhere in this resource pack, PbR is often in the news with informal reports, articles and comments in the mainstream and professional press.

This section provides links to the most interesting pieces.

Final process evaluation of Peterborough Prison Social Impact Bond/PbR pilot scheme aiming to reduce reoffending by released prisoners (17 December 2015) (Summarised by me here.)

The payoff for pay-for-success. Excellent long review of PbR and Social Impact Bonds in the US by the Stanford Social Innovation Review – private investors are increasingly funding welfare provision in the hope of profit.

Do social impact bonds really work for charities? Interesting review of SIBs in the UK by Tim Smedley in the Guardian, there are now 50 SIBs under development. (10 December 2015)

Great new resource from US Nonprofit Finance Fund: A Pay for Success Learning Hub (Launched 20 November 2015)

Article in Third Sector about £900k Social Impact Bond that Think Forward charity used to provide support to London school children (19 November 2015)

Article by Richard Johnson on what to learn from Australian worklessness schemes before 2nd iteration of Work Programme. 11 key and very helpful points, including do not compete on price (7 October 2015)

Community Links report summarises their experience of PbR in the worklessness sector (January 2015)

NCVO report finds that PbR is hampering public service innovation (24 April 2014)

Tom Gash of the Institute for Government writes in the Guardian: Payment by results fails to encourage smaller suppliers to bid for contracts

Recent National Audit Office reports have criticised both the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Work and Pensions for not understanding the risk of PbR – article in Supply Management (12 December 2013)

Update on the Youth Justice Custody reduction pathfinder PbR pilot finds 2 out of 4 areas very successful, 2 not at all. Children & Young People Now (18 November 2013)

Jak Tompsett says PbR contracts is driving more Housing Associations to deliver employability outcomes in-house (18 November 2013)

Excellent new report on PbR from voluntary sector perspective from NCVO & BWB (30 October 2013)

Fascinating/terrifying blog post by RSA Chief Exec Matthew Taylor on whether PbR will reveal that nothing works and leads to disinvestment in public services.

Interesting article on Jim Clifford’s payment by results scheme to drive up the adoption of older children (17 July 2013)

Good article from Age Concern on how commissioners find it hard to allow the discretion/Black Box approach on which PbR is founded (9 July 2013)

Interesting piece by Impetus Trust on the Treasury’s ambivalent attitude to PbR (9 May 2013)

Great piece by RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor on payment by results and probation (9 May 2013)

There are five other sections to this payment by results resource pack:

  1. Research
  2. Social Investment
  3. Information about current PbR Schemes
  4. PbR Jargon
  5. New PbR Interactive Tool



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