Draft PfG Outcomes Framework Engagement Event - An overview
Geoff Nuttall, Head of Policy and Public affairs at NICVA, set the scene and highlighted that the purpose for the event was to help the sector understand the detail of the draft framework as well as gain information on how to respond to the consultation. It was highlighted that it was critical to get agreement on the outcomes and what they are trying to achieve, in order to create a Programme for Government that is truly outcomes based, and therefore able to drive forward future budgeting, policies and funding awards.
Programme for Government Team, The Executive Office
Introducing the session, Geoffery Simpson highlighted that this was an opportunity to help attendees respond to the consultation on the draft Programme for Government Outcome Framework. The presentation would aim to provide attendees with an update on the work carried out to date as well as detail the draft Outcomes Framework.
Within “New Decade, New Approach” there is a clear direction, outlined by the political parties, to drive forward the new Programme for Government:
- Outcomes based.
- Aim to improve lives.
- Based on principles and practice of citizen and community engagement and co-design.
- Reconciliation should be a central part of the approach.
- Focus on building a united community in a way that has equality and mutual respect at the fore.
- Aligned to a multi-year budget, with a sustained approach to public finances.
- Actions and priorities are to be continually evaluated based on their impact on achieving against the well-being outcomes.
- A dedicated PfG monitoring and reporting website is developed to allow for transparent public reporting on the live PfG;
This approach is not new to policy development and has garnered support through numerous countries and governments.
An Outcomes Based Approach examines the outcomes that a policy would hope to achieve before working backwards identify what actions would be required to achieve these desired outcomes. Outcomes, unlike outputs, are more about the impact that policies and programmes have had rather than simply what has been delivered. For example, a policy that implements an Outcomes Based Approach for a training and skills programme will look at home many people gained a qualification and employment rather than just how many people attended the programme.
The purpose of consulting on the Framework is to establish a set of outcomes taken together will present a picture of societal wellbeing that the Executive want to see, based on what people have said matters most to them.
A framework will provide a common focal point for public policy moving forward and which everyone can relate to and support.
The Executive Office describe the outcomes outlined within the framework aa aspirational statements to describe what the Executive hope to achieve. It is imperative that they are correct as they will inform decisions that Departments take regarding the implementation of actions.
As the outcomes themselves are not measurable, each outcome will have a number of indicators drawn from official and national statistics which will be used to assess progress and demonstrate change over time.
To know if actions are having the desired effect in achieving the outcomes, the indicators approach will ask:
- How much did we do?
- How well did we do it?
- Is anyone better off?
The Executive hope that this approach will support effective collaboration and partnership working, helping to breakdown organisational barriers, not just in Central Government, but right across the public sector. The approach should help foster working relationships with other sectors including Local Government, Private Sector, Academia as well as the Voluntary and Community sector.
The Executive is seeking to bring forward a PfG based on Government partnering with civic society, that is able to respond to the needs of people and communities everywhere.
The draft Framework has incorporated a range of work carried out, and policies implemented over the past five years.
- The ‘New Decade, New Approach’ talks in detail about priorities and provides a new focus on policy areas such as housing, childcare, climate change, protecting rights and identity, ending sectarianism and tackling paramilitarism.
- Stakeholder engagement took place throughout the autumn period which helped test emerging thinking, bring clarity to the language used to describe the outcomes, and provide ideas on approaches to collaboration.
- Questions and responses that were contained within the 2018 / 2019 Continuous Household survey examined what people thought about Northern Ireland’s position in relation to each of the outcomes developed under the previous Executive’s Framework. Similar research was also conducted with young people in 2019.
- ‘What matters most?’ research, conducted by NISRA, examined the concerns that people had about their daily lives and how they would like Government to respond and act on those issues. This was used as a basis for the 2016 outcomes-based framework. Similar research was conducted again with a series of focus groups to inform the 2020 draft Framework.
- Lessons learned from experience in applying an outcomes-based approach to date has also been utilised to inform the 2020 draft Framework. In particular, the work carried out between 2018 and 2020, in the absence of Ministers to deliver the civil service outcomes plan.
These are agreed as the starting point for the current public consultation and to help start conversations. They are worded as short, high level and aspirational statements with the language kept as simple as possible.
The finalised Outcomes and key Priority Areas will inform and help determine the forward work of the Executive.
The intention of the new PfG will be to provide a firm basis for improving well-being for all.
The Executive Office want to hear from you on what you think about the current proposals.
- What are your thoughts on the outcomes and Key Priority Areas?
- Do you agree with them?
- Are there areas missing or areas that are not relevant?
- Does the Framework adequately address the needs of all sections in society?
- Does it provide an appropriate basis to tackle inequalities and promote equality of opportunity and improve wellbeing for all?
- Are there additional opportunities to promote equality that are missing?
The consultation on the related Equality Impact Assessment and Rural Needs Assessment will be running in parallel with the Framework consultation. To ensure that the Framework has considered all inequalities faced by different sections of society, the consultation on the EQIA and RNA are just as important to respond to.
The Executive Office describe the new PfG as a ‘live’ document, responsive to changing circumstances with the ability to adjust actions in order to tackle new challenges and embrace innovative ways of working. The Executive recognise that focusing on impact is essential therefore it is vital to ensure effective partnership with all sectors and delivery agencies, as well as people at all levels. TEO highlighted that despite there being an official closing date for the consultation, the public conversation on this subject will continue.
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