An evidence spectrum for social services policy and practice that builds trust

For some two decades now, ideas such as ‘evidence based policy’ and ‘evidence informed policy’ have signalled a political commitment to strengthening evidence gathering and evaluation capability across government.

In the past, the variability and risk aversion of political and institutional decision-making has provided a constraint on our willingness to learn from available knowledge, or create new knowledge, compared to most other areas of public policy.

Non-use or misuse of evidence brings huge costs to citizens, by crowding out valuable alternatives, as well as increasing the cost that citizens incur in order to get the best they can from services that could have been better designed.

The term ‘evidence based policy’ itself risks narrowing recognition of the inevitable interplay between politics and policy. Politics not only shapes policy, but influences the different roles in government of politicians and of the public service, limits the broad scope of evidence and its uses, and enhances the influence of more subjective information forms. Politics and institutional cultures shape the institutional structures, obscure the importance of independent validation for ensuring trustworthiness, as well as oversimplifying how public trust in information issues is enabled.

In this paper, the spectrum of evidence that is potentially available to bring about the trustworthiness of social services policy and practice is analysed.

Read the paper here: An evidence spectrum for social services policy practice and trust Jan 2018