The best policy decisions are informed by evidence, and where possible this evidence should be shared and made publicly available. In the Civil Service Reform Plan: one year on report we committed to publishing more of the evidence that supports policy making. Many Departments are now considering how they can improve their use of evidence and the transparency of policy decisions by doing this. In this series of blogposts we are sharing some great examples from across Government of how to go about publishing your evidence base and the benefits that this can bring.
- Laura Baynton, Cabinet Office What Works Team
The Ministry of Justice conducted a review of the court fees charged to individuals and businesses in the civil and family court. We wanted to seek input from the public through a consultation, and wanted to ensure that they had all the relevant evidence and data to hand to inform their responses. We took an ambitious approach in being as open as possible with the public in sharing evidence and data in order to come up with the best new system possible, and we think it worked.
Bringing our skill-sets together
Firstly, our team of MoJ social researchers needed to work collaboratively with other teams – policy, operational and other analyst colleagues – to bring together the data side with the policy information.
We met regularly to fully scope what policy colleagues needed to know to inform the policy review, and to make sure at the research design stage that we could provide relevant evidence to meet their needs. Our aim throughout was to ensure that the emerging findings were as useful as possible. The end result was a consultation document that detailed the policy position supported by data and evidence.
Commissioning new research to directly inform decisions
As well as bringing together existing data, we designed quantitative and qualitative research projects to provide evidence on public attitudes towards fees, and the likely impact of fee changes on demand for court services. The projects used different approaches to explore the views of different groups of interest, such as whether the behaviour of different types of court users would change in light of increased fees, and if so, how. The research showed that court fees were not a major factor in the decision to use the courts to resolve disputes, and we were able to include these new findings in the consultation.
Bringing it all together
We published the research reports alongside the government consultation and response, putting all of the evidence that had informed the policy review and reforms into the public domain alongside the policy proposals. Working closely with our policy colleagues meant that we designed and produced evidence that was relevant and maximised its use throughout the process. We think that the end product – the final policy that was agreed – was of a high quality, in part thanks to this open approach to publishing the evidence as part of the consultation.
What we learnt
Our top piece of advice to another team looking to publish an evidence-base as part of a consultation would be to identify and engage with the range of relevant colleagues at an early stage, and collaborate closely with them throughout the process to ensure information and evidence is regularly shared in both directions.
Potential impact of changes to court fees on volumes of cases brought to the civil and family courts - https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/court-fees-proposals-for-reform/supporting_documents/feesresearch.pdf
Public attitudes to civil and family court fees -https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-attitudes-to-civil-and-family-court-fees
The role of court fees in affecting users’ decisions to bring cases to the civil and family courts -https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-role-of-court-fees-in-affecting-users-decisions-to-bring-cases-to-the-civil-and-family-courts