27 November 2015

In October, the Alliance for Useful Evidence and Institute for Government held a joint roundtable event in Cardiff, exploring opportunities for evidence exchange and policy learning between the UK and devolved governments. Here the keynote speaker from that event, Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services in the Welsh Government, reflects on how the Welsh Government is demanding, creating and using evidence from across the UK to inform public service improvement in Wales.

Over the last century, Wales has provided numerous examples of inspirational public service leadership. David Lloyd George created the first system of National Insurance for those who were sick or unemployed. Jim Griffiths used his experience as a miners’ leader in developing the modern state benefit system. And Aneurin Bevan used his experiences from the Tredegar Working Men’s Medical Aid Society to create the National Health Service.

We are not afraid to learn from others. In recent months we have met the Institute for Government, Behavioural Insights Team, and Government Digital Service to learn about their approaches to change in service delivery. We have heard from non-devolved agencies including DVLA about digital learning, and the Cabinet Office and What Works centres about public service reform. I have visited councils across the UK leading the way on different issues, for example Camden for digital, Plymouth for their values-driven change programme, and Cheshire West and Cheshire on the lessons of mergers.

We have worked with NESTA and Cardiff University to create Y Lab, a public services laboratory to drive innovation in public services. And we recently held a summit with the top 200 public service leaders in Wales, from devolved and non-devolved services. It offered insights from speakers from Wales, the UK and internationally. It was coordinated by our public service Academi, a model for leadership development and training in public services. We know people come into public service in Wales to make a difference, but we must be clearer about what interventions work in improving outcomes for our citizens. Using evidence and rigorously testing proposals can help us invest in the right things, delivered in the right way.

There is more to do on sharing what works. I have established a Public Service Leadership Panel, bringing together innovators in public services, to shape thinking on leadership and delivery in public services in Wales. The group builds on the work of the Effective Services for Vulnerable Groups programme (ESVG), chaired by Jeff Farrar, the Chief Constable of Gwent Police, and the expertise of Cardiff University’s Professor Jonathan Shepherd in using evidence, including from randomised control trials, to influence public policy development in Wales.

We are working with the UK Trials Panel and Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) to build capability. I have commissioned two trials from BIT, on council tax and voter registration; and two scoping projects, exploring deliberately set grass fires and perpetrator programmes to tackle domestic abuse. I recognise that digital has transformed the way people live and want public services to use digital approaches to transform the way they work. I have appointed a Chief Digital Officer and established a Digital Public Services Working Group to drive progress.

Wales is small enough, and smart enough, to be at the forefront of public service innovation.

This blog has also been published on the Alliance for Useful Evidence (A4UE) website. In early 2016, The Institute for Government and A4UE will be co-publishing a paper on evidence exchange and policy learning between the UK and devolved governments.