Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 15th June 2015.
2. Mr Wilson asked the Minister of Justice to outline any discussions he has had regarding the use of social investment bonds as a means of attracting private funds to finance initiatives designed to deal with inter-departmental community-based projects targeted at vulnerable young people in interface areas. (AQO 8379/11-15)
I have had no meetings specifically on social investment bonds, but my officials continue to explore potential options in this area. DFP is working with Departments to explore opportunities to pilot alternative financing models for public service delivery, including social impact bonds and the development of suitable procurement models. Social impact bonds are indeed a means of attracting private funds to finance interventions designed to achieve social outcomes. As the expected output of a social impact bond is success in improving social outcomes, there would be a requirement to meet outcome payments to private-sector investors if outcomes are achieved. The next step for relevant organisations is to consider the outcomes and affordability. My officials will continue to liaise with officials in DFP and elsewhere to further explore opportunities in this area.
I welcome the positive response from the Minister. Finding ways of attracting private investment will be very important, especially at a time when public budgets are under pressure. One of the groups that would benefit if such impact bonds were introduced would be Sport Changes Life, which has had a dramatic impact on problems at interface areas. However, there is a requirement for gap funding for that group until such time as impact bonds are in place. Can the Minister give us an assurance that, given the good work and the response from the PSNI, he will seek in the monitoring round to ensure that sufficient funds are made available to keep those projects going in the interim?
I appreciate entirely the point that Mr Wilson makes about Sport Changes Life. Of course, he should declare an interest, as it is based in his constituency. One of its key projects was done in my constituency and no doubt had a significant effect. The unfortunate reality is that, given all the other pressures on core services of the Department, I am not sure that it is possible to prioritise even such positive and worthwhile community projects as we look at the June monitoring round. However, I will certainly look to see how we relate not just to Sport Changes Life but to our other NGO partners.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. What initiatives is the Minister progressing towards the taking down of interface walls?
I am really not sure how that sits in with social investment bonds, but I will happily explain to the House that work continues between officials in my Department and community groups in interface areas in Belfast, Derry and the Lurgan/Portadown area, all of which is seeking to build confidence in the communities on either side of interfaces to allow the removal or opening up of structures. We continue to make progress in that respect with things like the longer opening hours of gates and the fact that there are now seven fewer structures under the control of the Department of Justice than when justice was devolved.