How is NI performing? (Part two)

8 Oct 2019 Ryan Miller    Last updated: 15 Oct 2019

NI - it's a beautiful place (photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash)
NI - it's a beautiful place (photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash)

The second in our trio of articles taking an accessible look at how our public sector is doing, by its own measure.


Last month the Executive Office published its Outcomes Delivery Plan End-Year Report for 2018/19: Improving wellbeing for all -by tackling disadvantage and driving economic growth.

Outcomes-based accountability is the NI public sector’s new way of working, based on results.

These results are measured in this year-end paper. The findings within should set the tone for public services in the coming year.

The report is extremely long and so Scope is collating an accessible highlights reel of these public-sector outcomes. Last week we published our first piece, looking at the first four strategic outcomes (out of 12) quantified by a selection of indicative stats about NI and its people.

This week is part two of three, and we will look at outcomes five through eight.

Outcome 5 – We are an innovative, creative society, where people can fulfil their potential

This outcome is about being a modern and modernising society, a place that is constantly challenging itself and innovating, across industry and academia. Such aspirations would boost entrepreneurship (and rely on a well-educated population).

The five indicators used to quantify progress are:

  • rate of innovation activity;
  • percentage engaging in arts/cultural activities;
  • confidence (as measured by self-efficacy);
  • proportion of premises with access to broadband services at speeds at or above 30 Mbps;
  • percentage  school  leavers  achieving  Level  2  or  above  including  English  and  Maths.

Progress here appears pretty good. Three of the five indicators are assessed has having significant positive change, one (percentage of people engaging in arts and culture) no significant change and one (rates of innovating businesses) has gone backwards.

“The percentage of our population with low self-efficacy has decreased significantly in recent years,  from 24.3% in the baseline year (2014/15) to 19.9% in 2017/18. We are also encouraged by the positive change in the percentage of school leavers achieving Level 2 or above qualifications, which had risen to 70.6% in 2017/18 from a baseline of 66.0% in 2014/15.

“Other indicators are also showing improvements but there is still a lot of work to be done. The proportion of our premises with access to broadband services of 30 Mbps or above has increased significantly to 89% in 2018, a 6 percentage point increase from the baseline year (2016), but we still fall behind coverage in England (94%), Scotland (92%) and Wales (93%).”

Outcome 6 – We have more people working in better jobs

This is about more than building a successful economy and increasing people’s wages – although that, and the material security that comes with it, are an important aspect.

It is also about “increasing levels of health, confidence, self-respect and social inclusion” and tackling inequalities, as a job is “one of the best routes out of poverty”. This outcome is measured by seven population indicators:

  • economic inactivity rate excluding students;
  • proportion of the workforce in employment qualified to level 1 and above, level 2 and above, level 3 and above, and level 4 and above;
  • seasonally adjusted employment rate (16-64);
  • a Better Jobs Index;
  • percentage of people working part time who would like to work more hours;
  • employment rate by council area; and
  • proportion of local graduates from local institutions in professional or management occupations or in further study six months after graduation.

Three indicators have measured improvements, three no significant change, and one cannot yet be measured (data are being compiled to put together a Better Jobs Index).

The improvements are in the percentage of part-time workers who would like more hours (reduced to 14.6% from 20.5% at baseline), the proportion of local graduates from local institutions in professional/management roles (or studying) six months after graduation (up to 75.5% from 71.9% at baseline) and the proportion of the workforce qualified to levels one through four (upward change of a few percentage points at each level).

The report says: “Overall progress against this Outcome has been generally slower than we would like. There have been no meaningful changes to our economic inactivity or employment rates in recent years, and in both we fall well below the UK standard with considerable regional imbalances.

“The skills profile of our workforce continues to improve, but our skills forecasts continue to show a significant supply gap for people in our workforce with higher level skills. Similar gradual improvements can be discerned in the proportion of our graduates finding work or further study after graduation, but too many continue to leave Northern Ireland for those opportunities, or enter lower-skilled jobs.

“We know that to bring about the desired improvements against this Outcome we need to do more to stimulate job creation in the private sector, through the encouragement of new business start-ups and the attraction of value added foreign direct investment.

“We need to address our economic inactivity rates by convincing people that work and study are the best routes out of poverty. And we need to identify more creative, flexible ways to up-skill our workforce beyond traditional education and training routes.”

Outcome 7 – We have a safe community where we respect the law, and each other

Reducing crime, reducing reoffending and reducing the number of people entering the justice system have clear positives for society. Moreover, the value of mutual respect is obvious in a place like Northern Ireland. Five population indicators are used to measure this outcome:

  • Prevalence rate (% of the population who were victims of any NI Crime Survey crime);
  • A Respect Index;
  • Percentage of the population who believe their cultural identity is respected by society;
  • Average time taken to complete criminal cases;
  • Reoffending rate.

The reoffending rate rose slightly (18.47%, up from 18.06% at baseline), while there were small improvements in both the prevalence of people who say they were victims of crime (7.9%, compared with 8.8% at baseline) and the percentage of the population who say their cultural identity is respected by society (66.2% up from 64.4%) – however, none of these changes were deemed significant.

The other two indicators changed in significant ways, one negatively and the other positively: the average time taken to complete criminal cases went up from 143 days at baseline to 162 days, while the percentage score on the Respect Index went up to 37% from 28%.

Per the report: “The  Respect  Index  includes  a  set  of  nine  questions  known  as  the  Everyday  Discrimination Scale and was published for the first time in March 2019, measuring perception of discrimination experienced by individuals in their daily lives.  Responses to the nine questions are collated to report proportions who “feel respected” and “do not feel respected”.”

Outcome 8 – We care for others and we help those in need

The Programme for Government seeks to build a society that supports all citizens to be self-confident and to live independent and fulfilling lives.

Progress here comes by helping people who are the most vulnerable, and helping them to live as full members of the community. Six population indicators measure how things are going:

  • Percentage population with GHQ12 (General Health Questionnaire) scores ≥ 4 (signifying possible mental health problems);
  • Number of adults receiving social care services at home or self-directed support for social care as a % of the total number of adults needing care;
  • Percentage population living in absolute and relative poverty (before housing costs);
  • Average life satisfaction score of people with disabilities;
  • Number of households in housing stress;
  • Confidence of the population aged 60 years or older (as measured by self-efficacy).

The Executive Office report says: “Positive progress has been made towards this Outcome during 2018/19, with the exception of housing stress.

“The most recent figures indicate that the percentage of the population living in absolute poverty (before housing costs) has reduced from 20% in 2014/15 (baseline figure) to 14% in 2017/18 and the percentage of the population living in relative poverty (before housing costs) has fallen from 22% in 2014/15 to 16% in 2017/18.

“We continue to develop programmes that directly tackle poverty and disadvantage through financial support (approximately £6.13bn provided in working age, pensions and disability payments throughout the 2018/19 year) and other assistance, including enhancing the confidence and capability of individuals and communities.

“There is further positive change in the number of adults receiving social care services at home or self-directed support, from 67% of the total number of adults needing care in 2015 to 69% in 2018.”

There was also a significant drop in the number of people aged 60+ with low self-efficacy (down to 21.6% from 26.9% at baseline), while there was no significant change in the average life satisfaction score of people with disabilities or the percentage of the population with GHQ12 scores of four or more.

“We continue to face a challenge in seeking to reduce the number of households in housing stress. The 2018/19 Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) New Build target was 1,850 starts which was higher than in previous years as the Department pursued higher rates of development. By 31 March 2019, 1,786 new build starts was achieved, and while this represented a higher number than 2017/18 (1,759) it still means the target was not achieved.

“Housing stress levels continue to rise – from 22,097 in 2014/15 to 24,148 in 2017/18 with 7,373 allocations made to applicants on the social housing waiting list in that year. The scale of the stress and supply challenges in NI’s housing sector require Government interventions that lever in the contributions of others in a more diverse way than is currently the case.”


The third and final part is next week.

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