1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/08/2020 - 11:52
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While not specific to the area of youth policy, the development of an evidence base in order to achieve effective policy making is promoted by the Strategic Policy and Innovation Unit of the Executive Office (prior to May 2016 the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister)
It provides a Policy Toolkit, giving a practical overview of the key steps and key phases in the policy development process, including workbooks on 'developing and analysing the evidence base' and 'identifying and appraising policy options'.
The toolkit supports the general guidance contained in A Practical Guide to Policy Making in Northern Ireland, which sets out key principles for good policy-making developed internationally and gives practical advice on applying them in Northern Ireland. This gives the key features of an evidence-based approach to policy-making as:
- reviews existing research
- commissions new research
- consults relevant experts and/or uses internal and external consultants
- considers a range of properly costed and appraised options.
According to the Northern Ireland Guide to Expenditure Appraisal and Evaluation (NIGEAE), provided by the Department of Finance, the general principles of appraisal and evaluation should be applied to any proposal - whether project, programme or policy-related - with implications for expenditure/use of resources. Supplementary guidance is available in HM Treasury’s Green Book (as well as in the more detailed guide to evaluation methods used by social researchers, economists and statisticians, the Magenta Book.
Northern Ireland Executive Departments conducts some of its own in-house research. The Department of Education, for example, is supported by a statistics and research team, which produces survey reports and statistical bulletins on its behalf.
The Online Research Bank (ORB) Children and Young People's database is is a collection of searchable databases containing bibliographies and summaries of research focused on the lives of children and young people in Northern Ireland carried out since 2000.
The Department of Education commissions research, but does not engage in institutionalised and regular cooperation with other providers of research on youth and there are no dedicated mechanisms for this. Apart from ad hoc cooperation, however, there are some mechanisms covering a broader range of policy areas, described below.
Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series
The role of the Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS), which began in 2011, is to promote evidence-led policy and law-making within Northern Ireland. It is not specific to youth policy, but covers issues relevant to the programme for Government.
KESS is a partnership between the Northern Ireland Assembly and academia. It provides a forum to present and disseminate academic research findings in a straightforward format, to key participants and decision-makers in the policy and law-making processes, such as Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Assembly committees, as well as the wider public sector.
Embedded in the KESS model are: the local universities via their academics; Assembly committees via their Chairpersons; the Assembly’s Research and Information Service (RaISe) via its Researchers; and, a broad spectrum of attendees. (Attendees include: MLAs and their staff; political party staff; Assembly and Departmental officials; others from the public and private sectors; academics; voluntary and community groups; and, members of the public).
The Series is jointly delivered by RaISe, in partnership with all three universities located in Northern Ireland (NI): the Queen’s University of Belfast; Ulster University; and The Open University. Meetings are held weekly.
Register of Research Experts
The Northern Ireland Assembly maintains a register of research experts who may be contracted to provide impartial advice and expertise to Assembly Committees on a wide range of policy/subject areas. These include: Arts, Culture and Sport; Children and Young People; Education and Lifelong Learning; Social Justice; Voluntary Issues.
Understanding Society is a UK-wide longitudinal study that has been conducted annually since 2009. It captures information about people’s social and economic circumstances, attitudes, behaviours and health. In Northern Ireland it replaces the NI Household Panel Survey, which ran from 2001 to 2008. It includes a specific youth questionnaire for 10- to 15-year-olds.
For information on statistics and surveys dealing with young people and health, see ‘Main trends in the health conditions of young people’ in the Health and Well-Being Chapter.
There is no specific line of funding for research on youth to support evidence-based policy-making. Nor is there a specific line of funding for evidence-based evaluations of youth-related policies and programmes.