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EACEA National Policies Platform


1. Youth Policy Governance

1.6 Evidence-based youth policy

Last update: 25 January 2021


On this page
  1. Political Commitment to Evidence-Based Youth Policy
  2. Cooperation between policy-making and research
  3. National Statistics and available data sources
  4. Budgetary Allocations supporting research in the youth field


Political Commitment to Evidence-Based Youth Policy

The Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013 set out a requirement for local authorities to evidence their assessment of need for Community Learning and Development (CLD) provision.

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. This is stated in the Scottish Public Finance Manual (SPFM), issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance to the Scottish Government (SG) and other relevant bodies on the proper handling and reporting of public funds.

The detailed guidance on methods contained in The Green Book, Appraisal and Evaluation in Central Government, published by HM Treasury in 2011, has been adopted by the Scottish Government and applies to all organisations to which the SPFM is directly applicable.

Furthermore, the research section of the Scottish Government’s website states that:

‘Research plays an important role in shaping the policies of the Scottish Government, helping it to think about new and better ways of doing things and providing new understandings and discoveries that benefit society. The Scottish Government funds a wide range of social research programmes which aim to provide high quality research-based evidence and advice for Ministers and Scottish Government officials to inform policy development, implementation and evaluation.’


Public Sector Equality Duty

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) came into force across Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) on 5 April 2011 under the Equality Act 2010. It means that public bodies have to consider all individuals when carrying out their day-to-day work in shaping policy, delivering services and in relation to their own employees.

Scotland’s specific duties are set out in the Equality Act (2010) (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012. Since May 2013, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has conducted the ‘Measuring Up?’ programme to monitor listed public bodies' compliance with these duties.

Cooperation between policy-making and research

The in-house research capacity of the Scottish Government consists of analytical professional groups and a number of analytical divisions supporting policy topics within Directorates. The Chief Researcher within the Office of the Chief Researcher is also the head of Education Analytical Services. This is a division within the Learning Directorate which has the responsibility, in relation to education and young people, for helping the Scottish Government and the wider public sector make decisions based on high quality evidence and analysis to deliver the right outcomes. Beyond this in-house research capability, cooperation with the research community is largely ad hoc.

The Scottish Government provides funding to some research organisations, which, while not focusing on youth policy specifically, have remits to provide evidence in support of public policy-making:

What Works Scotland is an initiative co-funded by the Scottish Government to improve the way local areas in Scotland use evidence to make decisions about public service development and reform. It works with a range of third sector organisations and with central and local government. Of particular relevance to youth work, it is supporting specific Community Planning Partnerships to:

  • learn what is and what is not working in their local area
  • encourage collaborative learning with a range of local authority, business, public sector and community partners
  • better understand what effective policy interventions and effective services look like
  • promote the use of evidence in planning and service delivery
  • help organisations get the skills and knowledge they need to use and interpret evidence
  • create case studies for wider sharing and sustainability.

Evaluation Support Scotland works with third sector organisations and funders so that they can measure and report on their impact and use learning to improve practice and influence policy. One of the projects it worked on was a partnership programme entitled 'Reversing the Trend’. The aim of the programme was to identify the outcomes and evaluation tools for preventative and diversionary approaches in community-based youth organisations in relation to substance misuse.

The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice supports improvement in youth justice, contributing to better lives for individuals and communities. One of its key activities is ‘undertaking, supporting and coordinating research which helps with understanding youth justice'.

National Statistics and available data sources

The Scottish Government issues a range of statistical publications which it makes available on its website. These may deal specifically with young people, or with the general population, but with breakdowns for particular age groups. A website has been developed to publish the data behind the official statistics, with data available by theme, organisation or geography.

The official data source used to measure the size of the not in education, employment or training (NEET) group at national level is the Annual Population Survey (APS).

In 2015, a new Participation Measure was developed jointly by the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to show the proportion of 16-19 year olds participating in education, training or employment. This replaced the previous local authority level measure which had focused solely on school leavers. This focus limited the Scottish Government’s ability to fully assess the impact that the Opportunities for All (see the article 'Target population of youth policy') policy and the support provided by partner agencies had on the entire 16-19 cohort. The first experimental statistics were published in August 2015. Skills Development Scotland has produced an FAQ on the Measure.

In June 2020, the government released statistics on employment, unemployment and inactivity of young people aged 16-24. These figures pre-date the impact of COVID-19, 


Other statistics include:

  • The Scottish Household Survey is a continuous survey providing information about the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals on a range of issues, including local government, neighbourhoods, health and transport. There is a 16-24 age range breakdown. Annual reports provide a summary of the findings. Topics covered include volunteering and participation in youth activities.
  • Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) is part of a series of national surveys commissioned by the Scottish Government on smoking, drinking and drug use. The survey is conducted on a biennial basis, targeting secondary school pupils in local authority and independent schools.
  • The Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) provides a detailed picture of the health of the Scottish population in private households. An annual report is published for each year of the survey (the latest published being 2018, with amendments added in February 2020 as a result of issues with how age was standardised. There is an age breakdown for 16- to 24-year-olds.
  • Education Outcomes for Scotland's Looked After Children is an annual publication which links data on looked after children provided by local authority social work services departments with educational data provided by publicly funded schools, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS). It covers the attainment and post-school destinations of looked after young people who leave school. Data on school attendance and exclusion from school of looked after young people is available every second year.


Budgetary Allocations supporting research in the youth field

There is no specific line of funding for research on youth to support evidence-based policy-making. Research is carried out under the ‘social research’ category. Nor is there a specific line of funding for evidence-based evaluations of youth-related policies and programmes.