While the research initially focused on investigating the characteristics of LCF projects, it pivoted in March 2020 following the onset of Covid-19 restrictions. Amid the ever-changing circumstances affecting projects around the UK, researchers at the Government Outcomes Lab sought to capture the impact of the pandemic on LCF projects, and the projects’ subsequent adaptations. The second part of the report is therefore framed around three questions:
How was funding adapted in response to COVID-19 and how did project characteristics relate to funding decisions?
Were contractual terms fit-for-purpose?
How did services adapt in response to COVID-19?
As part of the Government Outcomes Lab’s interest in understanding SIBs as a commissioning mechanism, the evaluation explores the value of cross-sector collaborations and their responsiveness in the face of crisis.
"While conventional evaluations tend to be programme-focused, this evaluation attempts to explore the commissioning mechanism – the use of outcomes contracts and the involvement of social investors – in services that aim to improve social outcomes., The research team have worked creatively to develop an understanding of the key changes that impact bond projects have made during the pandemic. This is not a conventional focus for evaluation, yet the findings could have considerable benefits for the way in which government unlocks value from cross-sector partnerships."
Eleanor Carter, Research Director at the Government Outcomes Lab
The Life Chances Fund was launched as an £80 million fund from the UK Government’s Civil Society directorate, designed to help people in society who face the most significant barriers to leading happy and productive lives. It is dedicated to supporting the growth and development of outcomes-based commissioning through the use of social impact bonds (SIBs), by providing a top-up payment to local government commissioners.
The Government Outcomes Lab is responsible for the project-level strand of the LCF evaluation, which evaluates the impact, process and value for money of LCF SIBs and compares the SIB model to alternative commissioning approaches. The primary evaluation looks across the whole portfolio of 31 funded LCF projects - you can find data on 30 of these projects in our global impact bond dataset - while the supplementary evaluation takes a more in-depth look at project sites that provide an opportunity to compare services delivered under the SIB to similar projects commissioned in other ways.