Budget 2021: Evaluation fund launched as departments agree new priority outcomes

Treasury pledges to plug evidence gaps as it publishes new priority outcomes
The chancellor and Treasury team stand outside No11 Downing Street. Source: HM Treasury

By Richard Johnstone

27 Oct 2021

A new evaluation accelerator fund – run jointly by the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury’s evaluation taskforce – is set to help government fill “strategic evidence gaps” around which policies work well.

The Treasury has allocated £15m to the fund over three years, according to Budget documents released today.

The documents, published following a Spending Review and Budget statement by chancellor Rishi Sunak, set out departmental funding settlements which will see overall spending grow in real terms at 3.8% a year on average for the next three years.

Alongside settlements for individual departments, the Budget included details of the £200m  Shared Outcomes Fund which tests new ways of working across the public sector. This the second round of money for the fund, launched in 2019, and will see new projects launched as well as helping to “scale up [projects] where the evaluation shows they work,” according to the Treasury’s Red Book.

Departments have also agreed updated priority outcomes which they will use their Spending Review funding to deliver,  and the documents also included metrics that will be used to measure progress.  

The outcomes have been revised to reflect prime minister Boris Johnson’s five “missions” for the government, which will be supported by the No.10 Delivery Unit. They are:

• Levelling up: To fulfil the government’s ambition to level up the UK;

• Net zero: To get our country well on the way to net zero carbon, supporting green jobs and a better environment for the next generation

• Education, Jobs and Skills: Reduce the lost learning from COVID-19, raise productivity through skills reform, and get people into jobs, particularly higher-paid and higher-skilled ones;

• Health: Recover the health system following COVID-19, and level up outcomes; and

• Crime and justice: Reduce the volume and harm of crime, including drugs misuse; improve how the criminal justice system deals with the highest harm cases.

Spending Review decisions have been taken based on how spending will contribute to the delivery of these, with “successful delivery of outcomes is underpinned by investing taxpayers’ money on interventions with the best chance of working”, according to the Treasury.

The evaluation taskforce has worked with government departments in what the Treasury calls “important areas” to ensure proposals are supported by robust evaluation plans. Examples include embedding experimental evaluation into flagship programmes such as Help to Grow and the Youth Investment Fund, to strengthen the evidence base for future decisions. Funding has also been confirmed in areas where there is a strong evidence base that links interventions to outcomes.

Full Outcome Delivery Plans for the period 2022-25, will be “published shortly after the start of the next financial year”.

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