Policy practitioners’ accounts of evidence-based policy making: the case of universal credit

2018-09-25T12:59:59Z (GMT) by Mark Monaghan Jo Ingold
This paper draws on insider accounts from UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials to analyse the relationship between evidence and policy making at a time of rapid policy development relating to Universal Credit (UC). The paper argues, firstly, that evidence selection within the DWP was constrained by the overarching austerity paradigm, which constituted a Zeitgeist and had a significant bearing on the evidence selection and translation process, sharpening the focus of policy officials and analysts on the primacy of quantitative evidence when advising Ministers. Secondly, while methodological preferences (or an ‘evidence hierarchy’) impacted on evidence selection, this was not as significant as practitioners’ perceived capabilities to handle and develop evidence for policy. These capabilities were linked to departmental structures and constrained by political feasibility. Together, these dimensions constituted a significant filtration mechanism determining the kinds of evidence that were selected for policy development and those omitted, particularly in relation to UC. The paper contributes to debates about the contemporary role of evidence in policymaking and the potential of the relationship between future evidence production and use.