The Worcestershire Reconnections Social Impact Bond: An In-depth Review

The Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund evaluation is following 10 SIBs part-funded by the fund over their lifetime. One of them is the Worcestershire Reconnections SIB and the first report about the SIB was launched last week.


Written by

Tim Fox, Associate Director, Ecorys UK
and Project Director of the CBO evaluation

In this blog post, Tim Fox – Associate Director at Ecorys UK and Project Director of the CBO evaluation -  writes about the lessons learnt in designing the Worcestershire Reconnections SIB. 

The impact of isolation and loneliness on mortality has been estimated to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day on a person’s health. Tackling isolation in a cost effective and innovative way is something at the heart of the Reconnections Social Impact Bond (SIB) covering Worcestershire. Launched in May 2015, Reconnections is aimed at reducing loneliness and isolation for 3,000 people over the age of 50 in Worcestershire. It does this through providing one-to-one tailored support for lonely older people who will co-develop an action plan to establish ways in which they can (re)connect with a variety of local support networks.

The commissioner is Worcestershire County Council (as lead) along with three co-commissioners from Redditch & Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest Clinical Commissioning Groups. The main investor is Nesta and the main provider is Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire. These organisations have come together to develop the first SIB in the UK to tackle the key health issue of isolation.

This SIB has been evaluated as part of the Commissioning Better Outcomes Evaluation undertaken by Ecorys and ATQ on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund. The SIB will be evaluated throughout its life, with the first part looking at how the SIB was developed.

The evaluation found that the SIB was based on a strong business case. It quantified in a rigorous way the costs and benefits of loneliness and put forward a stronger ‘case for investment’ for this issue.

It also had strong contract design. The contract was designed to ensure the payment by results mechanism did not encourage the targeting of the least in need (i.e. the easiest results to achieve to release a payment).

However, there was a lengthy procurement processes. It took ten months to design and run the open procurement process which delayed the planned start of the programme. 

The SIB was also resource intensive to set up. It cost nearly £200,000 to develop meaning development costs need to be well resourced. In addition, SIB development can also be time intensive as stated above meaning there needs to be commitment and a certain amount of determination.

Partners are convinced that the effort and work at the beginning of this SIBs life will be worth it and the CBO evaluation will be next assessing the early years of the project in around a years time to understand the early impact of its work.

The Worcestershire Reconnections SIB In-Depth Review is available here. 

You can find out more about the CBO evaluation, and read In-Depth Reviews on other SIBs, on the CBO evaluation page: