In the brave new world of counting for outcomes, a recent article by Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw, Morgan Foundation, reminds us that a focus on increasing and decreasing numbers can only take our understanding of a societal problem so far.

The article raises concern over the inclusion of the decreasing numbers of people receiving welfare support, as an example of a successful use of evidence based policy.

As Berenton-Shaw points out, this number tells us little about the actual experience of people who no longer receive a state benefit.

It does not tell us for example what has happened to these people. Have they got jobs? Have their economic circumstances improved? Has it increased costs in other areas because there is a negative impact on child well-being when you tip people off welfare? An outcome has meaning for the people you are serving and outcomes also take into account the impact that a policy will have on the entire system.

The article articulates clearly the complexity around setting ‘outcomes’ and also shines a light on the importance of identifying underlying ‘assumptions’ (ie work is always beneficial regardless of type and the circumstances and health of the main caregiver) before claiming a positive and meaningful outcome to those affected by the change.

Well worth a read!