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Getting the Evidence Right

What is evidence?

A strong, well-structured evidence-based approach allows you to do four critical things:

  • "What do we need to know?" - Clearly identify the major challenges and priorities that face you locally in terms of child poverty.
  • "What works?"-  Determine the most appropriate policy and intervention response to address your key child poverty priorities and achieve your stated outcomes.
  • "Are we measuring what we need to or just what we can?" -  Make sure that the indicators used are the most accurate measure of success against your desired outcome
  • "What difference are we making" -  Track, over time, the impact you are having against your child poverty outcomes.

The Cabinet Office Strategic Policy Team, defines evidence as being drawn from the following sources: It is important to recognise that this list involves a range of both qualitative and quantitative information.

  • Expert knowledge - For example, specialist analytical officers, statisticians, public health practitioners and professional staff in associated policy areas.
  • Published research  - A wide range of social policy research, for example studies carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other social policy think tanks and research organisations, such as the Young Foundation.
  • Existing statistics - National datasets, such as Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics, the wide range of statistical information published by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.
  • Stakeholder consultations  - Local research studies, both qualitative and quantitative can play a critical role in developing understanding of poverty and deprivation in an area.
  • Previous policy evaluations  - Evaluations can be very useful sources of evidence with regard to the practical application of previous approaches.
  • Costing of policy options  - An analysis of the cost benefit and/or value for money of different interventions.
  • Outputs from economic and statistical modelling  - These approaches tend to be undertaken at a national as opposed to local level.


Measuring different types of poverty

How are different types of poverty measured?

Poverty is a complex and multi faceted issue. In order to help break it down the following descriptions can be used to help take account of the fact that children can experience poverty in a range of different ways.

Relative child poverty
Low income means that people struggle to participate in 'ordinary' economic, social and cultural activities. What this means will vary from country to country, depending on the standard of living enjoyed by the majority. In Scotland relative child poverty is determined as those living in families that earn less than 60% of the national average. While not as extreme as absolute poverty, relative poverty is still serious and harmful.

Absolute child poverty
This is when children and their families lack the basic necessities for survival. For instance they may be starving, lack clean water, proper housing, sufficient clothing or medicines. There is debate in some areas around whether absolute poverty exists in the UK. In Scotland absolute poverty is deemed as living in a family that earns less than 60% of what the average wage was in 1998/99. This determines whether those who are on the lowest income have seen a rise in what they take home in real terms over the last ten years.

In-work poverty
The working poor are those individuals and families who maintain regular employment but remain in relative poverty due to low levels of pay and dependent expenses. This group contains non-working household members such as children and non-working partners.

Combined low income and material deprivation 
Material deprivation' reflects whether children live in families which can afford to buy certain items and participate in leisure or social activities. This measure is applied to households with incomes below seventy per cent of average income to create the 'material deprivation and low income combined' indicator. This indicator aims to provide a measure of living standards which, unlike relative and absolute poverty, is not solely based on income.

Persistent poverty 
This is defined as being in relative poverty in three out of the last four consecutive years. This measure is designed to detect children and their families who are consistently in poverty over a long period, rather than those which dip in and out of poverty.

The threshold income levels for defining poverty are updated annually. In 2009/10 the relative poverty threshold for a couple with no children was a total income of £248 per week (Before Housing Costs). In 2009/10 the absolute poverty threshold for a couple with no children was a total income of £209 per week (Before Housing Costs).

Key indicators and measures

Key indicators and measures of child poverty

Throughout the UK, children are considered to be living in poverty if they live in a household with an income that is below 60% of the national UK median income (adjusted for size and composition). Poverty in Scotland is defined in relation to what is typical in the UK - UK threshold income levels are used to estimate poverty in Scotland Official poverty figures are estimates, based on robust analysis of an established UK-wide survey, the Family Resources Survey.

Although household income has a central role in defining child poverty in Scotland, it is important to acknowledge what a lack of income represents as equally as important in terms of health, housing, access to services, mental wellbeing and life chances. Much of the local work that is going on to tackle child poverty often focuses on reducing the impact of child poverty through direct provision of key services such as free school meals, access to leisure, educational support through schools, social protection services, etc.

There are a wide range of indicators and proxy indicators available to measure child poverty. Local areas have the discretion to be able to chose the indicators which are most relevant to their local priorities and outcomes. However, it is important to choose indicators which not only reflect child poverty in terms of income but give a fuller picture through indicators concerned with wider deprivation and well being. Outcome indicators are long terms measures. It is important to have a range of short term and medium term milestones to demonstrate progress and that you are on the right track.

On the top right hand corner of this page you can access some essential tools for determining which measures and indicators are best for you.

Other sources of information

What other sources of information are available?


Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics (SNS) -  datazone level

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics is the Scottish Government's on-going programme to improve the availability, consistency and accessibility of small area statistics in Scotland. It includes information on health, education, poverty, unemployment, housing, population, crime and social / community issues at the data zone level and above.

Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) -  datazone level 

The SIMD provides a wealth of information to help improve the understanding about the outcomes and circumstances of people living in the most deprived areas in Scotland.

Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion Toolkit  - some indicators not available for Scottish Local Authorities

CESI have produced an up-to-date and interactive resource that uses a combination of charts, tables and text to describe and analyse child poverty at a local level, and how it has changed in recent years.

Community Health Profiles -  Health Board, Community Health Partnership, Local Authority and intermediate small area level. 

These profiles highlight the considerable variation in health between areas and help identify priorities for health improvement, along with complementary profiles focussing on children and young people. The profiles give a snapshot overview of health for each area using spine charts (which show how the area compares to the Scottish average), and allow further understanding of the results via rank and trend charts.

Qualitative Information - the stories and perspectives of young people and families experiencing poverty

Poverty Truth Commission
The Poverty Truth Commission has been a two year project bringing together some of Scotland's civic leaders with people at the sharp end of poverty. They have worked together to discover the truths about poverty, and explore real solutions to it. They have also become friends.

Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP)
The SCCYP promotes awareness and understanding of the rights of children and young people. In particular they must promote and commission research on matters relating to the rights of children and young people and involve them in decisions around how we improve their rights and wellbeing.


Scottish Government Analytical Pages 
The income and poverty statistics web pages provides information about income and poverty statistics for Scotland. It includes the latest publications, a broad range of Family Resources Survey based analyses relating to income and low income in Scotland as well as performance against UK child poverty targets

Scotland Performs 
Reducing levels of child poverty and alleviating its impacts are reflected throughout the National Performance Framework. All of our national Purpose targets, outcomes and indicators are reported on annually in Scotland Performs'

Department of Work and Pensions 
DWP publish a range of statistics that provide information about DWP's client groups, benefits, employment programmes, estimates of households living in poverty and other areas that the Department is responsible for.

Office for National Statistics
The Office for National Statistics produces independent information to improve our understanding of the UK's economy and society.

The Poverty Site   
This site monitors what is happening to poverty and social exclusion in the UK and has material organised around 100 statistical indicators covering all aspects of the subject, from income and work to health and education.

Scottish Public Health Observatory
Along with summary data and statistics, they aim to provide background information, interpretation, policy notes, commentaries on data sources, references and links to further information for a wide range of topics relating to the health of the Scottish population.

Information Statistics Division of NHS National Services Scotland.
There are a number of general public health and health improvement measures which help to measure progress in tackling poverty, ranging from rates of smoking, drug misuse and alcohol consumption to data on sexual health outcomes.


Poverty profiles

Creating a poverty profile

A poverty profile is most commonly understood to be a description of the character of poverty among a population, often using qualitative and quantitative information to describe overall rates and traits of poverty. Poverty profiling can be a useful tool as poverty affects different communities in different ways. They are most effective when the indicators are robust, the whole community of interest is involved in producing them and when it is more than just a collection of figures describing poverty.

Poverty profiles should:

  • Clearly identify the community of interest
  • Clearly identify and involve all stakeholders
  • Specify any sub-themes that are of particular interest, e.g. education, housing
  • Systematically identify and gather information

Poverty profiles should aspire to:

  • Present a comprehensive account of the nature of poverty
  • Accurately and comprehensively report the extent of poverty
  • Identify the most intensive poverty within the community of interest
  • Use indicators that are fit-for-purpose
  • Describe the UK and Scottish policy context and specifically discuss the relevance of this to the community of interest
  • Appraise the Community Planning Partnership policy context (or community of interest)
  • Present an action plan or recommendations for future action
  • Identify trends, as well as profiling the here-and-now
  • Compare the extent of poverty beyond the community of interest
  • Be of value - an implementation, communication and dissemination strategy should be an integral part of the process


Reflective Questions

Different areas have different challenges to face in tackling child poverty.

  • Can you describe how child poverty in your area is similar / differs to child poverty (i) in Scotland as a whole; (ii) in other areas that are similar to yours?
  • Can you identify any localities within your area in which child poverty is a particular problem? What makes that area different?
  • What are the trends? Is your area improving or declining over time? What factors can be attributed to this?

Effective intelligence often involves challenging people's existing perceptions. It can be useful to provide evidence that forces other to rethink their understanding of child poverty.

  • Can you identify a local area in which child poverty is a problem (or which has a particular problem related to child poverty) that would surprise most people in your area?

Research  by the University of St Andrews has shown that there are four requirements for improving evidence use in policy and practice. In the context of tackling child poverty through Community Planning Partnerships and the outcomes approach these requirements are:

  • Agreement, between Community Planning partners and with wider stakeholders, as to what counts as evidence and in what circumstances, and critically a common understanding of what the evidence is "telling them".
  • A strategic approach to the development of an evidence base with a systematic effort to accumulate evidence that is strong, relevant and up to date.
  • Effective dissemination of evidence across the CPP and to wider stakeholders to where it is most needed and the development of effective means of providing wide access to knowledge.
  • Initiatives to ensure the integration of evidence based approaches into policy and encourage the use of evidence in practice.

Do you have all four requirements? What can you do to achieve them?


What _is _evidence