Developing a local child poverty action report: guidance

Guidance for local authorities on developing a local child poverty action report.

Guidance on planning, monitoring and evaluation

Effective use of information

For local actions to tackle child poverty to be most effective, they should be based on effective use of information throughout the planning process. The different ways information can be used to the greatest effect are described below.

1. Using information to identify local needs and select priorities

This involves using a wide range of local, national and lived experience information to tell the most detailed local story and identify what the biggest issues are, or where the biggest potential for impact is. This exercise, pulling on a large quantity and range of information, is not something that has to be done on an annual basis, rather it may be most effectively done at the start and review points of longer-term strategic planning cycles.

2. Using information on what works (and doesn’t work) to inform actions to address local priorities

Once priority areas have been identified, actions need to be developed and delivered that will make a positive impact on these areas. Where possible, evidence-based recommendations should be used to select actions which will be impactful in your priority area(s).

3. Using information to monitor and evaluate the impact of evidence-based actions on the areas they are targeting

Having selected evidence-based actions targeted towards priorities based on an in-depth understanding of the local child poverty situation, ongoing monitoring and evaluation can be streamlined by using information that specifically tells you about your priority area(s) so that you can regularly monitor changes in routinely collected data and to the experience of those living or working in the area.

4. Capturing new information from what’s learned through new innovative actions to add to the evidence base of what works/doesn’t work.

Where new, innovative actions have been identified for priority areas, there may not be a strong evidence base. In these cases, it is helpful to ensure learning is captured, using a variety of information types, to showcase how the action was implemented, who it was intended to reach, who it did reach and what changes it resulted in. This can be done through a mix of developing data recording systems, writing up case studies and capturing lived experience of those delivering the actions and those it was intended to reach. The effectiveness of case studies can be seen in this selection from Public Health Scotland.

Types of information

There are various types of information that can be used to help local areas in each of the stages above:

Quantitative data

Collected through surveys, through service delivery, routine data from health, education, local council audits. Different types will be available nationally and locally. Some examples are provided in the ‘Data Sources’ section.

What works evidence

Evidence, from research and case studies, on what works (and does not work) to make positive changes to the priorities you have identified. See for example these evidence reviews on action to tackle child poverty from What Works Scotland and Scottish Government.

Qualitative data

Lived experience of those facing, or who have faced, the challenges you are trying to tackle 

Data can come in the form of listening to the voices of those who have, or have had, experiences of the challenges you are trying to address. How they became at risk, what helped them, what did not help them, what made things worse. How the system works or doesn’t work to support them. What changes they would like to see to make life better for them.

Policy should be developed in collaboration with those with direct experience of poverty, (see page 12) and give particular consideration to the experiences and barriers faced by priority family groups who we know to be at highest risk of experiencing child poverty (see Reporting on priority families: examples’)

The Prioritising Child Poverty approach from PHS developed pen portraits, based on lived experience of families at risk of and experiencing poverty, to support local areas to develop holistic support for families. The resources include pen portraits and guidance on how to use them with local services, planners and residents to use lived experience throughout the planning process.

Lived experience of those working to tackle and mitigate the challenge

Often those working in local areas, in councils and partner organisations directly delivering support and services, have a vast amount of knowledge of their local area, their population, the history of what’s happened before and how successful or not it was. This information is often overlooked when we think of ‘data’ but it is a useful and valid piece of the jigsaw to help build up a complete picture of the local situation.

Types of monitoring and evaluation

Routine monitoring (If actions have an existing evidence base)

Development of a monitoring framework, where each priority has actions identified, linked to indicators that will capture who it is intended to target, who it is reaching and what difference this is making.

It is difficult to measure the impact that local actions are having on rates of child poverty, partly because child poverty rates are influenced by a wide range of socio-economic factors. Furthermore, data showing annual progress in relation to the four headline targets is not always reliably available at local level. It may be useful for local partners to identify appropriate shorter-term outcomes that directly relate to the drivers of child poverty, which can be influenced at local level and against which progress can be understood. Some local areas have developed/are developing local measurement frameworks: see e.g. East Renfrewshire, Perth & Kinross.

Public Health Scotland’s Outcome Based Planning tool provides a useful starting point for identifying suitable outcomes and indicators and monitoring progress towards them.

Bespoke evaluation / capturing learning (If actions do not have an existing evidence base)

With innovative actions where there is no, or limited, evidence base that they will be effective against the chosen priority, we encourage local areas to articulate what they hope to achieve (who they want to reach and what difference they want to make to those reached), alongside their plan to record this through developing data collection tools and capturing lived experience. Case studies, as well as plans to embed data collection, are particularly useful for innovative actions. If there is no planned evaluation activity for local innovative activities, possibly due to lack of funding or capacity, it is useful to flag this in the reporting.

Evaluating the plan as a whole (Stepping back to assess at a system level)

Each of the points above relate to assessing the impact of individual actions on their intended short-/medium-term outcomes. Because child poverty is a complex system, it can be helpful to periodically (for example, every 3 or 4 years if areas are taking the strategic approach suggested in this guidance) step back and look at the collective impact of all actions within the plan on the longer-term outcomes. Here, we would suggest local partners return to assessing wide and varied types of information (not just specifically related to the identified priorities) to complete another needs assessment (step one in the ‘effective use of information’ section) to see how things have changed. Are your priority areas still the same, or are other areas emerging? Here is the chance to put into the mix the external influences that may be limiting local actions (e.g. Cost of Living crisis etc.) so that you can assess your plan’s success across the system, rather than assess the impact of each individual action.

If actions within the plan have not been derived from a data-driven needs assessment and/or aligned with priorities, then the types of monitoring and evaluation above are still relevant, however there is less confidence that impacts of the activities will lead to longer term reduction in child poverty as they may not be targeting the biggest local need.

Resources to support planning, monitoring and evaluation

Improvement Service

The Improvement Service website signposts a variety of support, including planning tools and examples of policy and practice. The connected Khub page hosts announcements, resources and a forum for connecting with others.

What Works Scotland

Resources from What Works Scotland includes a range of support on approaches to generating and using evidence and guidance on evaluation. For example,

This page, dedicated to tackling poverty locally includes evidence reviews and case studies of local anti-poverty action.

Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC)

Children and Young People improvement collaborative supports use of Quality Improvement methodology, outlined in a three step change framework. Quality Improvement (QI) is a way to test, measure, evaluate and implement new and more effective ways of working.


PHS’s ‘Prioritising Child Poverty: A data and systems approach takes a public health needs assessment approach to understand the local child poverty system and shape local child poverty priorities. A child poverty data source was developed to use in combination with the child poverty dashboard and local data and intelligence to provide indicators against the three drivers of Poverty.

PHS are currently developing a comprehensive toolkit with practical guidance to support each of the steps described in the ‘Effective Use of Information’ section of this guidance. We will update this guidance with the latest resources as they are developed. This toolkit will incorporate, refine, and expand on the resources currently offered in their ‘Prioritising Child Poverty’ and ‘Outcomes Planning tool’. Local areas should still find these resources useful and relevant while the toolkit is being developed.

PHS Outcomes planning tool for LCPARs

An outcomes-focused approach emphasises the difference that an organisation or programme makes rather than what it delivers, in terms of outputs and processes.

The overarching outcomes for tackling child poverty (reflecting the three drivers) are: cost of living is reduced, income from employment is maximised, income from social security and benefits in kind is maximised. This PHS guide identifies contributing outcomes and suggests potential local actions to affect these outcomes.

Note that, alongside ‘Best Start, Bright Futures’ the Scottish Government published an updated measurement framework to monitor the drivers of poverty. This includes a breakdown of the three key drivers of child poverty alongside their indicators and the relevant data sources for measuring them.

This guidance is a living document and will be updated to include the latest learning and resources. For example,

  • The Scottish Government is undertaking Pathfinder work in Glasgow and Dundee. Measurement and evaluation are key to these projects and learning will be shared as they progress.
  • The Scottish Poverty & Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU) has been awarded funds from the Abrdn Financial Fairness Trust to compile and curate a Directory of Practice in Tackling Child Poverty Locally. Work on the project will start in September 2022. The first outputs will be available at a launch in April 2023.
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