Valuing changes in welfare to individuals and society resulting from the government's provision of children's social services in England: final report

Measurement for National Accounts purposes of the output attributable to government-provided services requires a different approach from that used for private sector goods and services. Public services, including Children’s Social Services (CSS), are mostly supplied free of charge and therefore there are no market prices by which their value can be measured. To advance the methodologies used in the measurement of government output, an independent review led by Professor Sir Tony Atkinson was set up. Its recommendations for the measurement of government output, productivity and associated price indices are set out in the Atkinson Review: Final Report (2005). Overall the Review’s recommended approach is to directly measure output using indicators that capture the full range of public services provided. In addition, ideally, these indicators should measure the incremental impact of these services on client outcomes. As part of a move towards implementing this approach for CSS output, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) commissioned this study to explore how one might measure the contribution that CSS activities make to the welfare of service users and society more generally. The study’s remit was to advise on how the recommendations of the Atkinson review might be implemented, and on any improvements to data collections that might be required. Indicators to represent the various categories of CSS interventions were to be identified and combined into a single annual index. The study’s aim was therefore highly challenging: to recommend a methodology for producing a robust annual output measure that fully reflects the change in welfare to individuals and society from CSS provision. This final report presents the overall findings of the study. It sets out principles to be followed in the measurement of CSS output and specific recommendations for changes. The conclusions from the first stage of this study, which are reported in detail in the Interim Report, are summarised in paragraphs 1.8 to 1.12 below.

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