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Qualitative research and policy making in northern ireland barriers arising from lack of capacity, conceptualisation and consensus

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  • 1. Qualitative research and policy making in Northern Ireland: Barriers arising from lack ofcapacity, conceptualisation and consensus Derek Birrell School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy University of Ulster 1
  • 2. Characteristics of the policy process in Northern Ireland• Distinction between devolved and non- devolved powers• Different governance sectors• Consociational coalition in government 2
  • 3. Main devolved and non-devolved powers Devolved Non-devolvedHealth and Social Care Macro economic policy NavigationEducation and children Taxation Civil AviationHigher education Foreign Policy/armed forces Monopolies and mergersSocial security Immigration/nationality National LotteryHousing Human Rights Human geneticsPlanning and environment Elections Data protectionEmployment and skills National security Consumer safetyCriminal Justice and Policing National InsuranceTransportTourismAgriculture and Rural DevelopmentArts and SportNote• Main devolved functions related to social policy• Social security not devolved in practice• Areas of overlapping powers e.g. child poverty, fuel poverty, equality, welfare to work 3
  • 4. Governance sectors• Government (Executive) departments• Assembly (parliament) and committees• Public bodies/quango sector• Local governmentConfiguration12 departments – 23,000 civil servants90 quangos – 145,000 staff26 local councils – 10,000 staffNote: very large quango sector but minimal local government system 4
  • 5. Consociational government• Involuntary coalition• Five political parties in government• No principle of collective responsibility• Checks and vetoes on legislation only 5
  • 6. Sources of policy discourses• Policy documents for consultation• Departmental reports and proposals• Commissioned reports• Explanatory policy memorandum for legislation• Equality impact assessments• Assembly Research and Library Services reports• Policy reports from public bodies 6
  • 7. Characteristics of policy discourses• Limited in number compared to Scotland and Wales• Major policy documents outsourced to management consultants.• Limited in comprehensive analysis• Lack of narrative on public sector modernisation themes• Lack of reference to relevant academic work• Little evidence based narrative or discussion 7
  • 8. Examples of deficient use of evidence1. Health and social care• Personal and Public Involvement 2011 (consultation)Evidence: NoneOutcome: Commitment to minimal participationSocial work in Northern Ireland in the 21st Century 2010 (report and strategy)Evidence: WorkshopsOutcome: Core and modernisation themes not addressed (Heenan and Birrell, 2011)2. Local government reform• Review of Public Administration 2005 (policy and legislation)Evidence: Commissioned research and consultationsOutcome: Evidence ignored (Knox, 2008)• Local government reform: Policy proposal 2010 (Consultation)Evidence: Advisory groupOutcome: Still very weak local government (Knox, 2010)3. Equality• Equality impact assessments (reports)Evidence: Public bodies reportingOutcome: Little policy impact/ tickbox approach (McLaughlin, 2007) 8
  • 9. Reasons for lack of use of evidence1. Lack of policy making capacity following devolution.• Identified as a problem in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland• Need to formulate legislation• Demand for policy advice and evidence• Attraction of distinctive new policies• Existing civil services not equipped for new policy making function• Existing trend to follow Whitehall departments• Seen as an issue of capability and capacity 9
  • 10. 1. Lack of policy making capacity and Northern Ireland issues• Legacy of direct rule and copying UK government politics 1972-1999 or little policy innovation• Northern Ireland civil service recognised problem in civil service reform agenda 2004, led to policy innovation unit and policy champion• Continuing tendency to outsource policy work• Adequacy of civil service/public service training.• Limited engagement with universities compared to Scotland and Wales 10
  • 11. 2.Low Level of conceptual analysis• Absence of modern agendas in health and social care: personalisation, user participation, integration• Absence of public sector reform agendas localism and decentralisation• Compatibility of structures with devolution e.g. centralised departments plus centralised quangos• Continuing democratic deficit• Dominance of cost cutting policies• Little attention to welfare models and principles 11
  • 12. 3. Limited research and policy related institutions• Few research institutes• Lack of policy think tanks• Limited policy research networks• Few independent sources of evidence – Statistics and research unit part of government department unlike ONS• Limited involvement of major UK policy institutes – Joseph Rowntree, Nuffield, Institute of Public Policy Research, centre for Social Justice• Lack of forums for policy analysis, policy debates, exchange of ideas, promotion of policy related research 12
  • 13. 4.Lack of political consensus• On many major policy issues anti-poverty policy, shared future/community relations, early years, cross border cooperation• Leads to policy impasses or lowest common denominator approach• Results in no commitment to use of qualitative research to advance issues• Role of political advisors to ministers• Evidence for ‘ignorance - based decision making’ (Parsons, 2008) 13
  • 14. Summary of key barriers• Civil service not accepting policy analysis role• Dominance of managerialism (Greer, 2004)• Lack of policy consensus among parties• Hostility to use of academic research• Limited qualitative research base• Policy areas that would benefit from qualitative research Academic selection; child poverty; adult social care; integration of health and social care; early years; future of social housing 14
  • 15. ReferencesDerek Birrell (2009) Direct rule and the governance of Northern Ireland Manchester: Manchester University PressDerek Birrell (200) The impact of devolution on social policy Bristol: Policy PressScott Greer (2004) Territorial policies and health policy Manchester: Manchester University PressDeirdre Heenan and Derek Birrell (2011) Social work in Northern Ireland: Conflict and change. Bristol: Policy pressColin Knox (2008) ‘Policy making in Northern Ireland Ignoring the evidence’. Policy and Politicsvol 36 no 7 pp 343 – 339Colin Knox (2010) ‘Devolution and the government of Northern Ireland’ Manchester: Manchester University PressEithne McLaughlin (2007) ‘From negative to positive equality duties: The development andconstitutionalisation of equality provisions in the UK Social policy and society, vol 6, no 1, pp 111-21Wayne Parsons (2008) ‘What is evidence and who owns it?’ in Public Management and Policy Association Evidence based policy making London: PMPA 15

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