Government to try 'crowd sourcing' key policies to see 'What Works'

Evidence-based guidelines will examine which initiaties work in bid to save £2bn a year

It is, one might think, what a good Government would be doing anyway.

But after years of policy disasters and U-turns for ministers of all parties, the Coalition is to establish the first network of bodies to examine which government initiatives actually work – and which do not.

Based on the model of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which provides evidence-based guidelines on all aspect of healthcare to the NHS, the new institutions will extend the concept to four other areas of policy.

Initially these will be promoting local economic growth, crime reduction, early intervention in childhood and keeping the elderly healthy for longer. They will be linked up into a network along with Nice and the Educational Endowment Foundation, which assesses education policy. Together the "What Works" network will examine policy areas amounting to £200bn of government spending.

If successful, further centres looking at other areas of government spending – including welfare – could be created. The centres, which will be independent of Government, will collate published evidence on the effectiveness of policies – both in this country and abroad – and carry out their own research. Unlike civil service policy advice to ministers the What Works centres will publish all their findings and recommendations as well as recommend further research work that needs to be done. Ministers believe that together the centres could save up to £2bn worth of ineffectual spending every year. The scheme is due to be launched today by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, and Policy Minister Oliver Letwin. Writing ahead of the launch, Mr Alexander said Nice pioneered the use of solid evidence in making decisions – and its success could be replicated elsewhere.

"In deciding whether a treatment should be made available, Nice is required to consider whether it delivers good value for money and helps the NHS meet its goals for delivering high quality care," he said.

"For patients, it means that when their doctor prescribes them a drug or a treatment, they know that the decision has been informed by the best possible evidence.

"However, we need to go much further by expanding the amount of evidence we collect and use to make sure that public services can draw upon a wide-ranging evidence base.

"At a time when the public finances are stretched and more savings will be required across government, it is more important than ever that public money is invested smartly on services that deliver the best results and real value for money for the taxpayer."

Mr Letwin added: "The What Works network will support commissioners and decision-makers at every level of Government – from head teachers and local police chiefs, to ministers and civil servants. A decade from now, we'll wonder how we ever did without it."

The move is a component of the Civil Service Reform plan unveiled by the Coalition last June and the Open Public Services White Paper of July 2011.

Funding for the network, which is expected to cost around £4m, will be partly from the Government with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council. The Big Lottery Fund, which distributes National Lottery good-cause money, is the sponsor and principal funder of the centre for ageing better.

Four to tackle: targeted policy areas

Crime: In 2004 the Home Office modelled the impact of proposed criminal justice interventions on crime levels and concluded it would result in 15 per cent fewer crimes. But the government later said 80 per cent of the fall was due to economic, not criminal justice, factors.

Growing old: A big burden to the NHS is the cost of elderly people in hospital unnecessarily. Spending money to prevent things like falls would be cost effective, but right now there is no way to know which interventions are effective.

Local economic growth: Labour set up Regional Development Agencies to promote economic growth but they never fulfilled their potential and were scrapped.

Early years intervention: Labour introduced Sure Start centres, but critics claimed they were monopolised by the middle classes. The new body will identify children at risk.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works