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“National evidence grid” offers lifeline to public services

18 June 2020

Economic impact of COVID-19 requires renewed focus on evidence and guidance in public sector.

A new report highlights how quality controls for evidence and guidance, as well as their rapid uptake, can reduce waste and improve police, health, education, and local authority services.

With a predicted 14% shrinkage in the UK economy this year, policymakers, service regulators and practitioners are urged to heed authoritative guidance to maintain high quality services.

The report shows how initiatives such as the What Works Network, have successfully created a UK evidence grid in the public sector that connects those who generate, those who transform and those who use evidence in places such as classrooms, hospitals and police command units.

The Work Works Network has established itself rapidly over just six years, but the new report suggests that decision makers are inundated with evidence and unregulated guidance from many sources. It highlights how this evidence grid could be improved to deliver greater benefits to public service users.

In order to gain Network membership, the report suggests that What Works Centres must be independent, methodologically rigorous, practical, accessible, capacity-building, and transparent. The report highlights how these important principles should be the basis of further improvements and calls for standards for evidence generation, evidence synthesis and guidance production to be set and complied with across the UK evidence grid.

Other recommendations include an independent external review of the What Works Network, the introduction of an accreditation process for guidance producers, the wider use of technology appraisals and mandatory action in response to the findings of such appraisals.

The author of the report, Professor Jonathan Shepherd of the Crime and Security Research Institute, notes “Covering more than £250 billion of public expenditure, the What Works Network is in a position to maximise the value generated from this massive public investment.”

“At a time when effective public services and the efficient use of public resource have never been more important, the recommendations laid out in this report offer an opportunity to harness the power of evidence to drive service improvement.”

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