Evidence from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing was instrumental for the HM Treasury’s move to explicitly use wellbeing as a core consideration in appraising and evaluating public policy.

About the research

The move to include wellbeing as one of the fundamentals of evaluating and appraising government policy has been gathering pace in recent years. Eight years ago the government set up the Social Impacts Task Force, consisting of analysts from Whitehall and the devolved government administrations, to develop a cross-departmental approach to understanding social impacts.

The aim of wellbeing analysis is to better demonstrate the full implications of policies – for instance, assessing how different transport options affect community cohesion, or the wellbeing impacts of different forms of flood defence measures. "Subjective wellbeing evidence can challenge decision-makers to think carefully about the full range of an intervention's impacts," states the updated edition of the Green Book.

Research evidence reviews from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing showed that subjective wellbeing measures can pick up meaningful, important and quantifiable differences in wellbeing. This work was central to the increased emphasis on wellbeing in the Green Book guidance, which directly references the research centre.

"The recent update to the Treasury Green Book is a huge leap forward: it sets wellbeing as a priority when it comes to developing and evaluating policy. We're very proud to have helped shape it," says Nancy Hey, Centre Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Impacts

  • In March 2018 HM Treasury updated the ‘Green Book’ guidance for policy appraisal and evaluation. Following a review of research evidence from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the guidance now includes wellbeing appraisal at all stages of policy development, including:
    • defining the focus of the appraisal
    • generating a longlist of policy options and impacts
    •  comparing possible final interventions – even stating that there are some cases where it makes most sense to compare the wellbeing impacts of policy.
  • The Green Book also highlights the need to evaluate the impact of policy on wellbeing, rather than just impact on gross domestic product (GDP).