Is our social security system universally challenged?

Is our social security system universally challenged?

Is now the time to start to think about a more universal approach to social security? Emma Baker, a Consultant in our London office, summarises how Covid-19 presents an opportunity for change. Emma is currently studying for a Masters in International Social and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science part time and this blog is a summary of some of her work.  


The roadmap out of lockdown has found us tentatively and cautiously beginning to think about a world post-Covid-19. But that then begs the question: What should the ‘new normal’ look like? With all the talk of #BuildBackBetter and #BuildBackFairer, now is the time for lasting, long-term changes to our social security system. 

Covid-19 has shone a light on the existing issues with our social security system, highlighting the need for changeIncome inequalities have been exacerbated and those who were already in financially disadvantaged situations have felt the consequences the mostThe UK had been experiencing decades of low-income growth and the last 20 years have seen average incomes remain stagnant. A shocking one fifth of people in the UK were living in poverty in 2019/20. As seen in the graph below, the average income of the poorest fifth of people in the UK fell by 3.8% per year on average between financial year ending (FYE) 2017 and FYE 2020 

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen high-profile campaigns pointing out the urgent need for support. Marcus Rashford’s recent campaign calling for the extension of Free School Meals to low-income families highlights a change in public attitudes around supporting equalitypromoting initiatives. The impacts of this campaign have been felt by many and are estimated to have reached an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to sixteen, providing a vital lifeline to many families across the UK. 

All of this is occurring at a time when a greater proportion of the UK population believe that benefits are too low. Stigma around receiving benefits remains high in the UK, with recent data published by Welfare at a Social Distance showing 27% of those eligible did not apply for Universal Credit due to stigmaDespite fears about perception, there seems be a positive trend showing a reduction in benefits stigma. YouGov polling finds that since 2014a higher proportion of UK residents feel benefits are too low while a lower proportion feel they are too high. As you can see from the graph belowbelief that benefits are too low have increased since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in April 2020.

The combination of Covid-19 necessitating innovative policy approaches combined with shifting public attitudes supporting a more generous social security system provides an exciting opportunity for change.  

A disruption to the status quo  

There have been some positive developments in terms of social security during the pandemic that offer glimmers of hope. Although these are generally reactionary rather than proactively implemented, support has been improved during this difficult time. The following initiatives offer a blueprint for future policy 

  • Most notably for many employers and employees: the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. As of 15 March 2021, a total of 11.4 million people in the UK had accessed the scheme.   
  • For those that are self-employed, the abolition of the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ for self-employed people seeking support may be the most noteworthy.  
  • Lastly, and to many a vital lifeline, is the blanket £20 weekly increase in Universal Credit payments during the pandemic. The decision to cut the Universal Credit uplift in the autumn is estimated to pull 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty by winter.  

The need for a more comprehensive system  

While the course of the pandemic has meant more people have found themselves in unstable employment, out of work, struggling to pay their bills and sinking into increasing levels of debt, this should have no impact on the help they receive from our government.  

While Covid-19 has now meant that more people are accessing Universal Credit it has also shone a light on the current inadequacy of Universal Credit. Regardless of the circumstances leading to applying to Universal Credit and the frequency of claims, the payment received should be adequate. The fact the £20 uplift was introduced in itself illustrates the inadequacy of the system.  

So, while these new measures are welcome, they should now inspire better social security to be the norm. This is also highlighted in current widespread campaign, Keep The Lifeline, calling on the government to maintain the £20 Universal Credit uplift long termThe graph below shows us the need for thiswith the UK falling behind the OECD average in terms of proportion of benefits received compared to previous earnings in employment 6 months after being made unemployed.  

A springboard for long-lasting change  

During and following times of uncertainty and upheaval have historically been times when significant changes have been made. Just look at the ‘Golden Years’ of social security which were a direct outcome and response to the effects of the world wars.  

This moment of global crisis (economic, health, social) is the time to properly address the root causes of these issues. Covid-19 has seen countries implement the most significant and widespread public health and economic interventions in modern history and now we need to think how we can build on innovative policies for the future. Many options have been suggested to address the current crisis and create a welfare system which truly addresses need and these proposed solutions and suggestions range from the more conservative to the more radicalWe need to ensure the system works for everyone, whether in-work or out of work. Suggestions include:  

  1. For those in work this could be a Minimum Income Guarantee[1]. Most poverty remains in-work poverty illustrating the need for more sustainable incomes, including wages which cover living expenses.  
  2. For those in and out of work, this could be Universal Basic Income (UBI). Income replacement is important for those who do find themselves out of work or jobless. UBI has gained traction in the public domain in recent years with many seeing it an increasingly viable option, particularly in the Global North.  
  3. There is also a need for services to be available and accessible for everyone, including those on lower incomes. Universal Basic Services calls for the provision of comprehensive public services, accessed because of need not the ability to pay [2]. The NHS is a symbol of national pride in the UK, but this begs the question: why healthcare and not other key services?  

Now more than ever, we need to push for values-driven, person-centred and dignified social security system which aims to reduce stigma and promote equality. 

Emma is a Consultant at Rocket Science based in our London office.  You can check out her profile here.

Domestic abuse and Covid-19 what next?

Domestic abuse and Covid-19 what next?

Covid-19 has had a direct impact on the rise of domestic abuse. Ciara Taylor summarises the issues, how Government has responded and what we need next to support survivors.


Since the UK-wide lockdown began in March 2020, there has been an increase in cases of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse charities such as Refuge and Solace Women’s Aid have reported an increase in demand for services; calls made to the Refuge national domestic abuse helpline increased by 66% over the last three weeks of May and visits to the Refuge website increased by 957% in the last two weeks of May. The rate of domestic abuse killings per week doubled in the first three weeks of lockdown; there were at least 16 suspected domestic abuse killings, four of which were children. Instructing people to stay at home has exacerbated existing problems of domestic abuse and in some cases has led to new perpetrators. As survivors cannot leave the home for extended periods of time it is more difficult for them to escape abuse.

To address this, the Government has:
1. Waived the stay at home rule for people experiencing domestic abuse.
2. Committed £76 million to support survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, vulnerable children and their families, and victims of modern slavery during the pandemic.
3. Raised awareness about domestic abuse through the daily coronavirus briefings including encouraging use of the silent ’55’ calls where individuals can call emergency services and press ‘55’ without speaking to alert that they are in danger.

Charities are providing the majority of frontline support for those experiencing domestic abuse. Face-to-face support has been shifted online through the use of emails, live chats and forums, whilst resources such as ‘survivor tips’ from Refuge and ‘how to cover your tracks online’ from Women’s Aid have been made available. Campaigns from organisations including Southall Black Sisters and Compassion in Politics have asked hotels to open up their rooms to those fleeing domestic abuse.

Changes to service delivery during COVID-19, alongside an increase in demand for these services brings several challenges. While organisations are unable to run in-person advice sessions, the provision of effective support relies on staff being equipped to work from home and service users having access to electronic devices and internet connectivity. Survivors face additional barriers to accessing help online as perpetrators of domestic abuse may closely monitor their use of the internet and they are unlikely to be able to speak freely over the phone for fear of being heard.

Building on the innovative and important work of the sector there are three key areas of intervention needed to support organisations supporting survivors of domestic abuse:

1. Invest in organisations to ensure they have the resources to respond to demand: Funders and commissioners must ensure that organisations and services have the resources that are required to respond to need and manage increased demand. The true scale of domestic abuse during this time and the impact it has had may not yet be realised; staying at home during lockdown has meant some survivors of domestic abuse have been unable to access support networks and as a result there may well be an increased caseload of people who look to access services post-lockdown. Resources might fund psychological support for staff as they experience an increased caseload and lack of face to face support themselves, and new homes/refuges for service users as survivors might have been cut off from other housing options due to COVID-19.

2. Recognise that domestic abuse is a complex issue which appears in many forms including economic abuse: Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse that may consist of the control and restriction of the acquisition and use of money and economic resources. Typical financial advice services may not be suitable for those experiencing economic abuse and may put them at further risk. As such, advice services must implement a person-centred approach providing tailored financial advice to ensure that service users are kept safe.

3. Invest in longer term stability and support: As lockdown ends it is important to move from interim, crisis-response type support to a sustainable approach that guarantees maintained support of survivors through secure housing, secure income, psychological support. This will require greater coordination of resources and funding. The parliamentary Domestic Abuse Bill Committee met this week (04/05/20) to hear evidence from specialist domestic abuse organisations and survivors and to discuss the enhanced domestic abuse bill.

It is important to utilise this bill to deliver the reform needed by this sector.

Ciara is a Consultant at Rocket Science based in our London office.  You can check out her profile here.

How can we help people avoid money crisis as a result of Covid-19

How can we help people avoid money crisis as a result of Covid-19

 Much has been written about the potentially devastating impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on people’s finances. There are very broadly two groups. The “newly vulnerable” who experience a dramatic drop in income, for example, those who used to earn a middle income or lost their job but now depend on Universal Credit and some of those who have been furloughed and have experienced a short term drop in income. The “known vulnerable” who were already struggling before the outbreak and likely to be even worse off now, for example, low-income households with debts that now depend on Universal Credit.

What has been talked about less is how this has affected people’s financial wellbeing and what kind of support people need as a result.

Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, financial capability levels across the UK were not as high as might have expected. In the OECD/INFE 2016 Survey of Adult Financial Literacy competencies in which 29 countries participated, the UK was ranked 15th, which was below the average for OECD countries and well below France, Norway, and Austria.

Financial capability is a set of attitudes and abilities that enable someone to manage their money well day to day, plan for the future and ultimately lead to financial wellbeing. Someone who experiences financial wellbeing is able to live adequately within means, has longer term financial security and feels confident in their shorter and longer term financial situation [1].  

Here is our analysis that draws on our research on financial capability support over the past twelve years and how services need to adapt to support people during and after Covid-19.

How has Covid-19 impacted on people’s financial capability?

Access to help and information

People’s access to help is an important element and first step towards financial wellbeing but our research has shown that there are multiple barriers for people needing access to financial advice and guidance.

Services currently offering financial capability support are likely to be under considerable pressure due to the outbreak. Most services are charities and could be experiencing a loss of income, staff shortages and an increase in demand for help

There continues to be stigma in accessing financial advice and our research shows that this is a major barrier and prevents people dealing with their problems which then leads them into multiple crises

People who need financial advice are likely to also experience reduced mental wellbeing and by not accessing help earlier contribute to making their mental health problems worse through increased stress and worry.

Knowledge of products and services

Knowledge around financial products and services is another important element of financial capability but in our experience, people need help to find and have help to navigate what is on offer. This means that their key worker or frontline advisor has to have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to provide help and this means providing them with quality training and support, particularly on emerging welfare reforms.

People will need help to understand what benefits and other kinds of support (free school meals, foodbank referrals etc.) are available to them. Accessing these types of support will help maximise people’s income, but our research reiterates how difficult it is to navigate the welfare system and that sometimes it is easier to disengage than have to work with multiple services.

There will be many people who have never applied for benefits before and as new welfare measures have been introduced people will really need help to understand what they are entitled to and how to access it.

People will also need advice around understanding how they can avoid, resolve, or reduce problem debt given their changed financial circumstances particularly those that have used payment holidays on their rent, mortgage, or household bills.

Having the right mindset

Motivation and attitude are other core elements of financial capability such as taking up advice and support, showing willingness to change behaviour and most of all having the confidence and resources to make and sustain a change in the way in which people manage their money.

Our research has shown time and again that even though people know what support is available to them and how to access it, they do not necessarily take it up.  This might be due to the stigma attached and because people feel that it is just “not for them”. Age UK recently reported that four out of ten of the poorest pensioners in Scotland were not claiming relevant benefits to boost their weekly income [2].  They may also be living a chaotic life and therefore not be in a position to make a change.

What these issues illustrate is that financial capability is a complex issue.  It’s not simply providing one-off support, it’s about building knowledge, skills and confidence and helping people navigate their journey.

How can services help people manage their financial crises?

Integrating support

Integrating financial capability support into other types of support such as housing or health services can be an effective way to reach a wider group of people, especially those who are reluctant to access help (see our evaluation of Shelter Scotland’s Healthy Finances Pilot).

It also means that people can receive support from someone they already trust, and our research clearly shows that a trustful relationship makes it more likely that people take up the support and actually follow the advice they receive.

This can be a challenge as we shift from providing services from face to face to online, remote support. Our experience has shown that people need a mix of support and wholly relying on a tech platform to provide advice runs the risk of people disengaging and not getting the help they need.

There are many really helpful digital resources people just need some help and time to work through them with someone they trust.

Working in partnership

Financial capability issues interact closely with a range of other issues including mental and physical health, housing issues and food insecurity. Services that focus on these issues and do not offer financial capability support themselves need to work with advice services, establish referral pathways, identify people who might need support and encourage them to access support through warm handovers. 

We have learnt that direct introductions and follow up are key to a successful referral and positive outcome.

Building the confidence and skills of frontline staff

Staff who have not provided financial capability support before or are out of date with latest welfare reforms need training on how to do it well. This should include training on communication and listening skills that enable staff to build a trustful relationship with clients to make their support more effective.  

Our experience has shown that the confidence and capability of staff to help people are major contributing factors in improving people’s access, knowledge, and mindset to achieving financial capability (see our evaluation of the Life, Money, Action! training course)

Being aware of economic abuse

We have also identified that more staff need to learn how to spot the signs of economic abuse as the factors that currently lead to an increase in domestic abuse are likely to also lead to an increase in economic abuse.  In these circumstances special care needs to be taken and typical financial capability support could lead to further harm.

We are currently working with Surviving Economic Abuse to evaluate how tailored training can help staff make sure they are providing the right type and level of support.

Being realistic

We need to remain realistic about what people can achieve. Some people will find themselves in a situation where their outgoings for essentials such as rent, utilities and food outstrip their income [3]. For many of them it won’t be possible in the near future to find a cheaper place or keep up with essential bills or put anything into savings.

The best financial capability support cannot resolve gaps in income and will not always enable people to behave in financially capable ways despite their best efforts.

The road to financial wellbeing is not linear.

Our research has shown that when facing both positive and challenging life transitions such as losing a job, moving home, relationship breakdown or going to college, people’s financial wellbeing can become compromised.

How people cope and manage during these transitions can make all the difference to their financial outlook – being resilient, getting help when they need it and having the skills to manage their situation are key. This will help them as they move from managing the now to thinking about their longer term future wellbeing.


[1] Based on the Money Advice Service’s Financial Capability Adult Outcomes Framework available at


[3] Here are some interesting examples detailing what someone will receive under the new welfare measures and how this compares to their outgoings:


Inga is a Senior Consultant at Rocket Science based in our Edinburgh office. You can check out her profile here.

C-19 and the impact on people with multiple complex needs (MCN)

C-19 and the impact on people with multiple complex needs (MCN)

The world is already a very different place as a result of C-19 and it is going to continue to change. It is important to think about what comes after covid-19, as well as what we can do during the lockdown and recovery phases, to minimise the impact for people with multiple complex needs.

We know that employment was at a record high before C-19, and we know it will collapse; benefit claimants are already increasing and will continue to rise; the self-employed sector will shrink; some sectors will shrink in the short term and be slow to recover. Based on recovery from previous recessions, we predict it will take at least 7 years for the employment rate to recover.

What we don’t know is the social impact of the lockdown and recovery phases, and the uncertainty for people with multiple complex needs. 

  • It is likely that drug and alcohol consumption has increased, while drug supplies are changing (availability, price, purity) and drug treatment services are being delivered remotely. There is likely to be an increase in drug related deaths as a result.
  • There is an increase in cases of domestic abuse, but victims are unlikely to seek help during the lockdown phase. During lockdown people are struggling to access a route to safety, and there is a reduction in reported incidents. While demand increases, services may be at risk of closing due to lack of funding.
  • More people are resorting to selling (or exchanging) sex– often for the first time – as they have no other options to meet basic needs such as food and shelter.
  • C-19 will also put pressure on existing mental health services with rises in cases of isolation and loneliness, loss of motivation, depression, and risk of self-harm. C-19 could have a profound effect on people’s mental health – now and in the future. Often, people with multiple complex needs don’t access community mental health support, or if they have an addiction, can’t access mental health support.
  • Many people are in financial distress, and food poverty and food insecurity is a real worry for many people. Before C-19, there were already more families accessing foodbanks so this is going to exacerbate the trend .
  • While there has been an urgent call from Government to get all rough sleepers housed (‘everyone in’), this really needs to be in self-contained accommodation, with access to a private bathroom. People experiencing homelessness are three times more likely to have a chronic health condition and it is not possible for people living in hostel and shelter accommodation to self-isolate.
  • For some new Universal Credit claimants, the wait for payments presents a severe risk of homelessness. Some groups, such as single parent households in private rented accommodation, are at even more risk.

    This raises several questions:

    • How can we minimise the impact of C-19 for people with MCN? Can we deliver preventative support or early interventions for people with mild to moderate mental health conditions? Can we start that delivery now? Can we ensure people with MCN get the health support they need, and are not at the ‘back of the queue’?
    • How can we continue to effectively support people, as well as bringing new people into support programmes, if needed? Which methods of remote delivery are most effective? And are these as effective (or more) than previous ways of working? How do we effectively respond to an increase in demand? How do we redesign existing services to maximise impact?
    • How do we redesign services, to ensure rough sleeping does not increase to levels before C-19?
    • As the numbers of people accessing mental health support after lockdown will undoubtably increase, how can we deal with this effectively, whilst also ensuring those most in need of support aren’t left at the back of the ‘employment queue’? Can people with mental health needs be supported back in to work concurrently with accessing services.  Can we identify and provide additional support for those at particular risk, ensuring the most vulnerable are not forgotten / left behind?
    • The emergence of online resources, designed to help those in recovery from addictions during the current crisis, is essential. There is a need to carry out more research on the effectiveness of remote treatment delivery and ways to build trusting relationships, without in-person interaction, particularly for new people accessing services.


    How can we respond:

    • Providers can ensure that frontline staff are trained and well prepared to deal with safeguarding issues, if working remotely.
    • Providers can put regular reflective practice sessions in place, to ensure the wellbeing and psychological safety of frontline staff.
    • Commissioners must ensure that those with multiple, complex needs or facing multiple deprivation are able to access services quickly and get the right support at the right time.
    • We should all be aiming to identify what works in remote delivery, and share this, to build an evidence base.

    Cherri has worked as an Executive Director in leading charities, managing complex service areas, in the North East of England, with coverage across England and Scotland. She returns to Rocket Science with a unique perspective of the issues facing the most vulnerable in society.

    To get in touch for a discussion, please email or call 07887 673 407

    No one is hard to reach if we are doing it right – effective community engagement

    No one is hard to reach if we are doing it right – effective community engagement

    Clare Hammond explores the lessons we have learned at Rocket Science about what works when it comes to community engagement.

    Government strategies, funders’ focus, and community need is all going in one direction – a growing emphasis on helping those who most need it. These groups come with a myriad of ‘titles’ such as multiple and complex needs, furthest from the labour market, and the hard to reach.

    The typical service model goes – people turn up, you support them, they are better off for it. Sounds simple right? Perhaps not. As any staff involved in frontline delivery will tell you, engaging the right groups in the right numbers and in the right ways is extremely difficult. There are a wide range of complex and nuanced drivers for a lack of engagement that services need to navigate.

    We recently completed a review of a Scottish Government fund that supported community-based programmes to take a new and more dignified approach to food poverty. We went in looking for evidence about whether the support provided by these projects was helping alleviate hunger, increase nutrition and reduce the stigma and indignity associated with food banks.

    What we didn’t expect to find was how much these projects could teach all sectors about engaging people in services and support. The firm community development underpinning to these organisations created a wave of engagement and interest that projects were often struggling to keep up with. Many had even taken the next step and turned this engagement into extra capacity through volunteering and in-kind support, further building their services.

    So, what were these projects doing so well? Based on this research and other projects we have worked on recently, we boiled it down to the following.

    Their approach to targeting was not to target

    Seems counterintuitive right? But projects that didn’t explicitly target the group they were seeking to reach often ended up doing a better job at reaching exactly that group.

    Explicit targeting tends to single out and label individuals, usually negatively. Such labels are understandably unappealing and off-putting; driving away a lot of people in most need of support.

    I can already hear commissioners and funders screaming – but what about additionally – won’t we end up helping those who didn’t really need it in the first place as well? Broadly, yes. Careful planning for how to do this is important here for this to be remotely sustainable. We suggest considering the following:

    • Will diversity help achieve better outcomes? Providing a space where people meet, who would otherwise not, can have positive repercussions on local community cohesion, and can create mutually beneficial relationships between people from different walks of life.
    • Can a non-targeted service or support act as a gateway into other more targeted support by building trusted relationships increasing the likelihood that those who need it go on to access other services?


      Blur the line between the helping and the helped

      This is based on the assets-based approach where everyone has something to offer. In addition, individuals usually want to offer something. No one wants to feel like a ‘charity case’. Too often well-intentioned programmes can alienate those they are trying to help, making them feel indebted to the service, and stripping away any dignity in being given support.

      It is easy for people to feel that there is a clear hierarchy of power within a project, where their role is firmly cemented as the ‘helped’, creating a feeling that they are different than the ‘helpers’. This tends to prevent people from feeling empowered and can entrench issues of negative self-image. Ultimately this makes the likelihood of sustained, long-term change slim.

      Creating more equitable power dynamics and opportunities for participants to help one another, particularly through informal volunteering opportunities, can reduce this feeling, and can even free up the capacity of busy staff. It can also combat mistrust issues that participants may have had previously with figures of authority.

      Enable disengagement and reengagement without fear of consequences

      Life can be unpredictable and chaotic, particularly for people dealing with complex, interconnected issues, such as mental ill-health, homelessness, unemployment and alcohol and drug use. This means that participants may fluctuate in their ability to engage with a service, or how useful that service can be to them. However, disengagement with a service does not mean that engagement up until that point has not been useful, or that they won’t be ready to benefit from it again in the future. The option of reengaging can give people a safety net, and help them to feel that, following a setback, all is not lost. It also enables participants to only be part of a project when they are able to really get something out of it, which may actually produce savings to a project in the long run.

      Provide meaningful activities with skills learning

      A key to effective community engagement is for people to see the value in it. No one wants to be a part of something that they feel is a waste of their time. Any community project needs to think very carefully about the activities and approaches used, and how to label them in a way that makes them appealing to be a part of. Understanding the local context, including the local service landscape and where there are gaps, as well as specific local issues, is an essential part of this. It is important not to make assumptions about what it is people want or need, but to instead ask them what they would like.

      Understand that establishing reputation takes time and investment

      Community engagement does not happen overnight. It is likely to take time and sustained effort to establish trust within a community and is an ongoing process. Even well-established projects are at constant risk of becoming out of touch with communities or suffering from a lack of promotion.

      Clare is an Associate Director in our Edinburgh Office. For more information on our community engagement and evaluation work get in touch on 0131 226 4949 or

      What makes a good outcomes framework?

      What makes a good outcomes framework?

      Cristiana Orlando and Clare Hammond reflect on what makes an outcomes framework work

      A fundamental must do across public and third sector organisations is to be able to understand and evidence the change you are creating. Measuring outcomes is the bread and butter of organisations, and certainly the area of focus of a large portion of our work here at Rocket Science.

      There is a huge range of complexities to bear in mind when measuring your outcomes for example:

      • Making sure you are measuring the right things – as you tend to do what you measure
      • Trying to articulate impact on soft and often intangible changes you are seeing in those you work with
      • Tracking long term impact so that you can report on impacts achieved after your work with an individual or community finishes.

      However, the complexity we want to focus on in today’s blog is around how to coordinate impact measurement. For example, where Scotland-wide reporting is required, but activity and impact is occurring across 32 local organisations or partnerships. Scotland’s (and many other jurisdictions’) answer to this is to have a national outcomes’ framework. There are frameworks for community justice, mental health, alcohol and drug, social care etc – all seeking to build a comprehensive picture of impact at a national scale.

      A framework has to let partners do their own thing but measure impact with consistency

      The purpose of these frameworks is to enable a range of partners to do their own thing, but track progress, change and impact in a way that enables success to be aggregated, and in some situations compared.

      An unused framework is a pointless framework

      For a framework to be useful it has to be consistently applied and applicable for the vast majority of partners. More importantly a framework has to be used to be helpful.

      We are all very good at creating amazing and theoretically perfect frameworks that are:

      • Impossible to lower onto delivery on the ground – if it doesn’t enable local partners to tell a story that makes sense to them it is difficult to use the framework in practice.
      • Not useful to those completing the data – if it isn’t useful to them then why divert already stretched staff time using it?


        In our experience of reviewing and developing outcomes framework across the social care, health, employability, community justice, and housing and homelessness we have learned that there are several good practice elements that make a framework work:

        • A good outcomes framework is concise, clear, and consistent in structure and content. Keep outcome titles short but with clear instructions on how to interpret and measure them. Keep the number of outcomes to the minimum needed. Be clear about the aim of the framework, how outcomes link together and be open about the strengths and challenges of the framework
        • Avoid obsolescence through being too vague. There is a tendency to keep outcomes very high level to ensure it is flexible and applicable for partners doing very different things. Being too vague runs the risk that the information becomes meaningless as it tries to be all things to all people
        • Create a framework that is easy to collect data Conducting feasibility testing beforehand, ensuring the framework is co-produced involving all partners, and providing guidance on the use of proxy data are three ways to mitigate the risk of including unfeasible outcomes or indicators.
        • When an outcomes framework is used across localities, it is important to balance national and local priorities. Create a clear link between national objectives and local needs by providing a breakdown of the framework’s aims at both levels. This helps partners have clarity around how they fit into the bigger picture and facilitates the collection of meaningful data locally.
        • Lastly, good frameworks are closely aligned to the way business is done already. The closer the alignment the easier it is to integrate into day to day activities and greater chance of staff buying into its value

        Outcomes frameworks are a powerful tool, but striking the balance between comprehensiveness, consistency and simplicity can be a tricky process.


        Clare Hammond is an Associate Director and Cristiana is a consultant in our Edinburgh Office. For more information on our outcomes frameworks and evaluation work please get in touch with the Edinburgh Office on 0131 226 4949 or