New Zealand’s first social bond will help around 1700 people with mental illness into work, Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Social Investment Minister Amy Adams say.

“Social Bonds are an innovative method of providing social services for people with complex needs—where a financial incentive is offered to a consortium of providers and investors if they can achieve a result with a service which is demonstrably better than what has been previously achieved with the old way of doing things,” says Mr Joyce.

The bond was approved last year and, since raising the required finance, is now operational as New Zealand’s first bond. The service will be voluntary and available to those living in Pukekohe, Waiuku and several other South Auckland suburbs.

The bond will be delivered by APM Workcare. APM Workcare is an experienced and successful provider of vocational rehabilitation and disability services, with around 150 employees. They have assisted more than 24,000 people across the country to return to work after injury or unemployment.

APM Workcare will deliver services to up to 1700 people over the 60 month duration of the bond.

Social Investment Minister Amy Adams says this social bond is another example of the social investment approach designed to get more effective delivery of services to those who most need them.

“One of the difficult challenges in getting people off benefits and back into work is how best to help people with mild to moderate mental health challenges and achieve sustainable long-term results. Government agencies have struggled with this issue for a long time,” Ms Adams says.

“Through this social bond, we can utilise private sector skills and innovations to help participants into paid employment, so they get off welfare and improve their mental health. This leads to more independent lives and a better outcome for them and the taxpayer.

“Job seekers with a qualifying benefit and a diagnosed mental health condition may be eligible to be referred for the services.”

“It is an innovative approach to a long-term problem”, Mr Joyce says. “I look forward to seeing how this pilot performs. I’m sure we all stand together across the public service and across the parliament in seeking a better outcome for people challenged by mental health conditions.”

A second bond, aimed at reducing youth reoffending rates in South Auckland, is on track for final decisions later this year.