• Eugene McGarrell

Self agency over service handouts... there is a way.

Angie was in an abusive marriage. Her husband drank too much and at weekends she and her 2 young children we victims to his drunken moods, aggression and sometimes violence. She had had enough but had nowhere to go. She felt trapped but she wanted to protect her children. Running away and sleeping in her car or finding a women’s shelter seemed to be her only options.

She was at her wits end, was she about to become homeless?

Late one night she was surfing the web and googled “how to escape an abusive relationship safely” and up popped up a link that piqued her curiosity. She clicked on the link and landed on a page offering women escaping violence a loan $10,000 to relocate with the support of an inter-agency (including police) domestic violence service navigator.

The loan was an interest free loan with the option to pay it back over time (up to 25 years) once she was back on her feet and working.

She struck up a conversation on line via the chat feature on the web-page and was matched to a service navigator that would guide her through the process and make sure their transition was safe. Within a week she used her loan to rent a new place, purchase basic furniture and had started looking for part time work.

10 years later Angie has paid back her loan. She had the option of paying the loan directly to the original social investor or to use the money to provide the same opportunity for another woman escaping an abusive relationship. Angie chose to invest that money to help another family.

Angie and her kids avoided the trauma of becoming homeless, her kids continued their schooling, she received trauma counselling to help with the years of abuse she experienced, and Angie secured work and continues to participate fully in the economy.

When Angie asked about this scheme and what she found useful she said “I always felt in control and supported. I had agency throughout the transition, and I didn’t feel like I was being a burden to the state. When I received the loan, it didn’t feel like a handout and having the option to use that money to help someone else made me feel like I was able to make a difference.”.

Angie took up the offer to meet the social investors who contributed to the $10k loan. They met in a park for a picnic and she was able to thank them for their kindness and show them how their money prevented the potential slide to homelessness, depression, anxiety, addiction and child protection intervention. She was able to tell them how her life has been transformed and how her children grew up to become adults contributing to the economy.

This scheme has reduced the burden to government spend on domestic violence, mental health, emergency department and homelessness services. The savings over 10 years were calculated and 50 % of that saving has been returned to the “mum and dad” investors and to the organisational social impact investors with the option to take their return or re-invest into the scheme (or both).

This story is now possible with the advent of blockchain technology. There are platforms like Alice that allow social investments linked to activities and outcomes. The transparency Blockchain technology provides means that investors can track their money and the money only gets released when the investor is satisfied that certain requirements are met. This means the activities and outcomes of each dollar is tracked and reportable creating incentives for care agencies to deliver outcomes.

Blockchain technology offers significant opportunities for transforming the social investment market, for incentivising agency performance and for supporting self-agency for people in vulnerable situations. Micro-investment for local community activities through to insurance schemes such as workers compensation schemes and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The technology also offers primary care commissioners the opportunity to track their investments to outcomes.

I am sure this relatively green field site of innovation is exciting many of us. Let’s make sure we harness the technology for good.

If you want to engage in the conversation to see how blockchain technology can revolutionise health and social care please connect. We can be at the forefront of this change.

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