About a dozen staff who work with young offenders will lose their jobs following the wind-down of a controversial social bond initiative.  

The bond was issued six years ago to fund the operations of Genesis Youth Trust, an Auckland-based charity working with children referred by police and Oranga Tamariki. 

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Bond investors only get paid out if the agreed re-offending rates are met. 

Its term officially finishes at the end of August and investors are expected to receive a decent payout due to the programme’s success. 

But despite its success Genesis Youth Trust board chair Martyn McKessar had to tell staff this week they could not be kept on.  

“That’s both social workers and youth workers and you look at this and think this is a proven programme.

Due to the tight restrictions around the bond contract, new clients could not be taken on from September 2022; however the Trust managed to keep the programme going. 

“Over the past 12 months to maintain staff numbers and keep it going, we have self-funded over 100 young people.  

“So we’ve just done that through our own fundraising and our own reserves. We’re just trying to keep this thing going.” 

Trust interim chief executive Peter Browning said it was a “complete waste” to be letting staff go given the need for successful youth intervention work.  

“We’ve got experienced qualified staff who have been in their jobs, some of them for quite a while, and they know what they’re doing.

“So it just seems a complete waste, not to retain that resource.”

Only $4 million of the $6 million had been spent thanks to fewer referrals than expected. This was mostly due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and police resources being deployed elsewhere during the mosque attacks. 

It was set up to deliver for 1000 young people, but only got through 607. 

The Trust had hoped the remaining $2 million could be reinvested, which would keep operations afloat for another 18 months.  

The surplus is due to be returned to the Crown in October.  

In a letter to the former justice minister Kiri Allan (and re-sent to the current minister Ginny Andersen) Browning said the funding should be used for its intended purpose.  

“We think it is within your authority to authorise the use of this surplus for its original intention, to reduce rangatahi re-offending, by agreeing to a forward contract for continuing the services that have been supplied under the bond. 

“The board is desperate for a solution to this situation.” 

McKessar said each staff member worked with about 15 medium- and high-risk offenders – which meant 180 fewer youth would be helped going forward. 

“If [we’d had the referrals] we would have spent that $2 million … and those kids would have been dealt with.

“And it’s 80 percent of those kids not coming back to the attention of the police. That’s a phenomenal programme.” 

Proponents of social bonds have said the success of Genesis Youth Trust should serve as a blueprint for future social investment. 

The bond was agreed to under the previous National government.  

Emma Hatton is a business reporter based in Wellington.

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