What is it?
What is Poverty Sensitive Decision Making?
Poverty sensitive decision making helps to make clear the impact
of decisions made by services and organisations on people
experiencing poverty. The widely accepted definition of poverty is
having an income which is less than 60% of the
It encourages a decision-making environment in which the impact
on poverty is duly considered, evidenced and justified and plans
put it place to lessen or avoid any negative impacts.
This approach is intended to go beyond traditional poverty,
regeneration or economic development based services to take wider
services into account which may also have a significant impact on
the experience of poverty. For example, health, education,
transport or environmental services.
Although it is hoped that more poverty sensitive decisions will
be taken as a result of this process the aim is not to introduce an
overly restrictive bind on those responsible. Rather, the aim is to
demonstrate that poverty has been considered and if the decision
has any unintended negative impacts action taken to lessen these
Poverty sensitive budgeting can be used in two
Why use it?
Why use poverty sensitive decision making?
In the current economic climate we are all having to make tough
decisions concerning budgets, service provision and support that is
on offer. However, we need to make sure that the consequence of
these tough decisions don't impact disproportionately on the most
vulnerable in our society. Evidence suggests that recession does
not widen the risk of poverty. It increases it for those people
already most at risk of becoming poor, or remaining in poverty
Poverty sensitive decision making could be a stimulus
for more effective anti-poverty work.
It suggests a high level of commitment to tackling poverty and
of an approach that is prepared to the address key issues by
identifying and mitigating possible negative impacts in
It widens responsibility for tackling poverty (beyond
field-based practitioners and those managing projects), to include
those with 'backroom' administrative responsibilities, such as
finance officers and treasurers. It is a tool for demonstrating
that tackling poverty is everybody's business.
It establishes a culture whereby each decision is accompanied by
reflection on the extent to which it impacts positively or
negatively on poverty may increase the probability that positive
initial decisions or budget allocations are taken
It can be a stimulus to better understand the specific
contribution to tackling poverty of any particular service, budget
line, project or organisation would heighten accountability and
demand improvements in how poverty impact is to be understood,
measured and appraised.
Starting the process
How can I encourage other service areas to
Many service areas across a local authority and its community
planning partnership, that may not have considered their
responsibility to alleviate poverty, can have a significant impact
on how it is experienced.
For example, access to transport can be a key issue in terms of
how people experience poverty. People who cannot access or afford
public transport may feel isolated, unable to easily take their
child to visit the doctor, pharmacy or other essential services.
Their opportunities to secure work may be limited as they are
unable to travel outwith a certain area for employment. They may be
unable to take advantage of bargain deals and saver options
provided by the larger out-of-town supermarkets, or forced to
compromise with more expensive, less healthy options provided in
local shops. These problems can be particularly acute in a
When gathering evidence to make your argument to other service
areas the following prompts may be useful:
- Does the service cover a known deprived group
- How does this provision compare to the service in more affluent
areas or for more affluent groups?
- Is the service considered affordable for all social groups? If
an area or group couldn't access the service, would the impact be
felt differently depending on their socio-economic status?
- What benefits could supporting anti poverty or inequality
measures have to the service? E.g. Housing having fewer voids or
evictions? Environmental services having fewer cases
- Are there any joint outcomes you can both be
When making your approach to the other service area it may be
useful to consider the following prompts:
- Who do you need to involve? Who are the key decision makers
within the service?
- Are there any contacts in the service which could become a
'champion' for increasing poverty awareness?
- What is the best method to use to approach them? Face to
- What are their key drivers / concerns? Can supporting anti
poverty work influence or have an impact on these drivers? What are
the budgetary implications now and in the long term?
- Can you present anti poverty activity in a way which would be
beneficial to their 'core' work?
On this page you can view a case
study example of how Shetland are taking poverty sensitive
decisions in terms of environmental health.
Fit with the policy cycle
Poverty Sensitive Decision Making in the
There are 6 main stages in the policy making cycle.
- Rationale - What is your intervention or policy going
- Objective - What goals are you going to set yourself?
- Appraisal - Which method you are going to use to reach
- Monitoring - How are things progressing during implementation
of the policy?
- Evaluation - How successful was the policy?
- Feedback - What lessons can you feedback to make sure that
future policy is more effective?
If you wish to help influence colleagues to consider poverty in
their area of work there are certain times when it may be most
useful to become involved.
Objective setting - Does any evidence you
have gathered suggest that a service could be delivering a better
standard to a group or area experiencing poverty or save you or
others money in the long term? Becoming involved at this stage will
allow you to present your case for why they should amend their
policy and include poverty as one of their objectives.
Appraisal setting - At this point the
service area will know the problem they want to address and the
goals they want to achieve. Offering different ways and methods in
which tackling poverty can support them to achieve their goals will
demonstrate the benefits to both their service area and yours. It
will also make your argument easier if your proposal is not seen as
additional to 'core' business. Useful tools as part of the
appraisal process are learning from successful
practice and logic modelling .
Monitoring - Becoming involved at this
stage suggests that you are gathering evidence of the impact of an
existing policy. This can be used to create a proposal / argument
for why poverty sensitive decision making should be employed in the
future. If you have been involved since the start of the policy
cycle this stage means working together with the service area to
make sure that they continue to have a focus on tackling poverty
and that the policy is progressing towards its objectives.
Evaluation & Feedback - At this stage
it is important that the contribution of the tackling poverty
elements of the policy are captured and shared. This will raise
awareness of the positive impact that tackling poverty can have to
the long term aims of related service areas. If an approach is
proven to be succesful it is more likely to be adopted. Other
service areas can also learn from any challenges or
guidance for local government and the third sector on how to
conduct effective evaluation can be found in the Magenta book
published by Her Majesty's treasury.
What tools can I use for poverty sensitive
The following tools and prompts may help set out the different
range of impacts you anticipate as part of a poverty sensitive
decision making process. They are envisaged as a useful example or
starting point for you to take and adapt to your
To help people develop more poverty sensitive policies
Inequalities Impact Assessment Tool
To make people more aware of poverty, inequality or
socio-economic disadvantage when making decisions about service
provision or budgets.
The following prompts may help to structure the decision making
of you and your colleagues when considering changes to service
provision or budgets.
- What is the anticipated change? (Consider carefully whether it
will be via increased or decreased expenditure, service provision,
access to services or benefits. Include exact figures / savings /
service specifications if available)
- What is the rationale behind the anticipated change?
- What kind of impact will the change have on poverty, socio
economic disadvantage or inequality? (Where available, provide
evidence that the change will have either - no impact on poverty or
inequality; improve the quality of life for people experiencing
poverty; remove people from poverty or decrease income inequality
in Scotland. )
- Will the anticipated change have a more significant impact on
any vulnerable groups, equalities groups or
If you expect your anticipated change to have negative impact on
any of the elements above these further prompts may be
- Where possible, explain how the change will have a
- Where available, provide tangible evidence that the negative
impact will take place and who / where it will affect.
- Explain why you have chosen to make a change that will have a
- Set out any actions that you will take to reduce the
On this page you can access an example Poverty
Impact Assessment Tool developed by Falkirk Council
Making it effective
Effective poverty sensitive
In order to use poverty sensitive decision making effectively
the following factors need to be taken into account:
- Definition - Poverty and socio economic
disadvantage are complex. A decision needs to be taken on how these
are going to be understood. Which groups in poverty are to be
targeted (e.g. children, pensioners, working people, women, ethnic
minorities, disabled people)? What dimensions of poverty are to be
considered (will the intervention move people out of poverty,
improve the quality of live of people experiencing poverty or avoid
pushing more people into poverty)?
- Baseline - In order to appraise options
effectively and make good decisions you will need to provide a
baseline of current levels of poverty or poverty related activity
to be able to measure expected change.
- Impact - Acknowledge that the impacts of
your decisions may be affected by a wide range of factors. Some
external to the organisation. For example change in benefits or
- Working together - Recognise that this
approach requires a number of different skills sets. For example a
working knowledge or poverty and inequality as well as proficiency
in dealing with budgets and finance. These skills may be split over
different individuals in different teams or parts of
- Long term - Many of the strategies and
activities required to effectively tackle poverty, inequality and
socio economic disadvantage are long term. The positive effects of
these interventions will not always become clear within political
cycles or budget review periods.