Since 2013 Women’s Breakout has been working to develop a Social Impact Bond (called Start today) for vulnerable women including those impacted by the criminal justice system. The development has been supported by a Bates Wells & Braithwaite Impact team and eight of our member organisations and over the last four years we have learned a lot that has been shared to the benefit of the women’s sector and we have wrestled with significant changes and challenges in local and national policy arenas in order to keep positioning this work.

In the first year this work was funded by six of our member organisations, in order to prove feasibility and develop a financial model that would then enable us to apply for funding. We were successful in our application to the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund (CBOF) in 2015 for a development grant and this supported us to further develop our approach and engagement with commissioners.

The Start Today service is a gold standard specification delivered to the highest quality standards. Initially, we had anticipated that there would be a single local commissioner (the CRC) and a single provider organisation in six geographical areas. Following detailed development of the Start Today service, unit cost analysis and pricing proposal, we had detailed conversations with a number of CRCs that indicated in most areas minimal appetite to commission a service that goes beyond a very basic level of support and very low budgets per woman. Recognising that there was a shift in focus, we started to consider how this model would work in a whole system approach and extended our model to include housing, children’s services, health, and police (including Police and Crime Commissioners). To some extent, the main focus was deliberately shifting away from meeting the challenges of TR towards unlocking new commissioners for the sector.

We created an innovative service proposal that delivers a whole system approach to working with women with vulnerabilities and complex needs. It includes results-based commissioning of services, ensuring that commissioners only pay for the value of savings and efficiencies that they see. The service proposal was supported by quality standards that have been built on the best knowledge and wisdom available in research and practice, and frame and describe a high quality service that will support women with complex vulnerabilities to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

We realized that given our small team we would not be able to pilot this work in the original six areas and so early in 2016 we approached commissioners in four areas, knowing that even this would be too big a stretch for our capacity but not expecting all areas to take up this opportunity. In the event, two areas moved forward with us: Gloucester, and Newcastle and Gateshead and in the summer of 2016 we successfully bid to CBOF for commissioner top up funding.

It takes a long time to develop the relationships and interest that is needed to shift commissioning approaches to be able to include social impact bonds as a funding vehicle. Gloucester now have a corporate director leading and she has secured commitment, including financial commitment, from the five commissioning areas, and there is a very strong focus on children’s services; and the Nelson Trust are working alongside Gloucester as the service provider for this work. Newcastle and Gateshead have made a commitment, but not yet a financial commitment; and Changing Lives continue to work alongside those commissioners to demonstrate the value and benefit of a social impact bond funded model for a whole system approach.

With two areas at different ends of the country taking this work forward as local SIB development, we have recently transferred our role to the local leads and withdrawn from the work. We have developed a number of presentations, tools, fliers, briefings over the last four years and you will find a selection of these below.

This work was innovative and ground-breaking, providing a real alternative model for funding services for vulnerable women that has the potential to ride a changing and potentially damaging financial and political environment and protect the model of holistic, gender specific service provision that we know works for women who present with vulnerabilities and complex need.


The information release by Women’s Breakout in relation to the Start Today Social Impact Bond (“SIB”) proposal has the foregoing limitations. By accessing the documents, readers agree to be bound by these limitations:

  • Neither Bates Wells & Braithwaite London LLP (“BWB”) nor Women’s Breakout (“WBO”) (or its successor body) accept responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in this pack, which has been derived from information and explanations received from various third parties, on which both organisations have relied during the course of their work;
  • Material prepared by BWB was compiled in order to deliver a scope of work agreed with WBO to meet its needs, to whom BWB owes a duty of care as client. This work was funded in part by grant from the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund. BWB does not accept and will not assume any responsibility or liability to any third party that accesses or uses this information;
  • WBO is making the information contained in this pack available in order to share its progress towards the launch of a SIB. This is intended to be used for information only. Neither WBO nor its successor body will accept or assume any liability to any third party that accesses or uses this information;
  • Readers of this information are advised to undertake their own enquiries and investigations in order to confirm the relevance of information to their own circumstances and requirements;
  • The material included in this pack was prepared between 2014 and 2016, and was current, to the best of the knowledge of a group of organisations and experts involved in the project, at the time of writing. Readers of this information should exercise caution and undertake independent checking of relevance and accuracy of this material before using it;
  • Financial material presented here including, but not limited to, the unit cost analysis, pricing structure proposal and any results (or indicated results) of financial modelling are based upon assumptions that had been reviewed by (or provided by) an expert panel involved in development of the Start Today service. These are, necessarily, based upon averages or agreed points within ranges identified from a review of selected women’s sector projects.
  • The Start Today SIB, as presented here, remained subject to further testing with commissioners at the time of publication. In particular, the pricing structure proposed had been presented to commissioners, but remained subject to contract and further negotiations with commissioners. As such, readers should treat materials shown here as ‘draft’ rather than a final position;
  • The proposed pricing structure takes into account success rates assumed by a group of women’s projects based on their own knowledge of delivering similar services in their specific locations. It also takes into account the costs of providing a management and quality assurance infrastructure for a network of service providers. Readers of this information are encouraged to consider the prices shown against outcomes as indicative, and to undertake their own review before preparing any similar structure for discussion with commissioners;
  • None of the material presented here should be construed as formal advice from either BWB or WBO on the viability or feasibility of a SIB in any given location(s). Users of this information are advised to take their own independent advice in relation to these matters.

WBO has given permission for users of this information to access and copy extracts from documents included on this website in their own material, provided that WBO and BWB are acknowledged clearly as a source alongside the quoted/copied material.

Please read the disclaimer text above before using any of this material


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