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The Briefing

Programme for Government’s Outcomes framework

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by Aiken PR

25/01/2021

NI Executive released its consultation of the Programme for Government’s (PfG) Outcomes framework.

The Northern Ireland Executive released its consultation of the Programme for Government’s (PfG) Outcomes framework over the weekend. The full document can be found here, with the online portal for submissions here. A downloadable consultation response form can be found here. The deadline for responses is 22 March and all responses to the consultation will be published. In advance of submissions, the PfG team has made themselves available for engagement on subject matter. Once the consultation is closed, the results will be analysed by the Executive and, where appropriate, adjustments made. More detailed action plans will then be developed and there will be further engagement with stakeholders and delivery partners. 

The framework’s nine Outcomes, a pre–requisite approach of the ‘New Decade New Approach’ (NDNA) document, are designed to present a picture of the kind of society residents and businesses in Northern Ireland would want to see. Importantly, the PfG will be underpinned by a budget and supported by Executive strategies including an investment strategy, an economic strategy and an anti–poverty strategy aimed at building a “strong and prosperous” society by tackling disadvantage and achieving sustainable economic growth. No further information is given within the document on budgetary details.

 

The consultation document advances a progressive concept, one that it is argued is furthered still by the advent of Covid–19. Cross–governmental working; public, private and third sector working in harmony; decision making based upon outcomes are all fundamental to the framework. However, the document itself notes that Outcome based decision making is not new. Yet, many of the difficulties the Executive has faced in the past have been more to do with political differences than differences of how to create a better society.  A new framework recording aspirational aims will not be transformational in dealing with some of the pre–existing inefficiencies on its own.

The draft Framework of Outcomes are statements of societal wellbeing which, taken together, are intended to capture the range of things that experience and research suggest matter most to people. They include: 

  • good health; 
  • a fair, equal and inclusive society; 
  • the economy; climate change; 
  • being able to fulfil potential; 
  • feeling safe and secure; 
  • having respect for each other; 
  • living in a place where people want to live, work, visit and invest; 
  • being able to reach out and connect with others; 
  • ensuring children and young people have the best start in life

Each statement contains various priority areas, responsible departments and the strategies that can help deliver them.  Of particular note for business will be the sections headed:

  • ‘Our economy is globally competitive, regionally balanced and carbon–neutral’
  • ‘Everyone can reach their potential’
  • ‘We live and work sustainably’
  • ‘People want to live, work and visit here’. 

The intention is that the new PfG will be maintained in a “live” format with work plans being continually evaluated and adjusted to ensure they are achieving the desired impact. Old/completed actions or ineffective plans (those not contributing to desired improvements) will be halted and removed. This is both an admirable and challenging aim, requiring cohesion and communication across government. One thing that the response to Covid–19 has made clear is that at times, when it comes to the difficult decisions, deep disharmony remains between ministers and across departments. If such an approach is to be successfully maintained, a strong and resilient Outcomes framework with committed and long term buy–in from political stakeholders will be necessary to prevent distortion in the future as disagreements arise on what actions to maintain and which to discard.

For potential respondents, it is important to recognise the importance of the Outcomes framework in determining future work plans. The benchmark for measuring actions will always be the contribution that each makes towards achieving the desired Outcomes. Accordingly, while the future engagement of the Executive will be more open, the framework will remind the guiding principles.