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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Review of National Outcomes 2023 - SCVO response to call for evidence

About our submission

SCVO is pleased to provide evidence for the Scottish Government's ‘National Outcomes review in 2023.’ Our submission builds upon our previous response to the Finance and Public Administration Committee in April 2022. We highlight the important contribution of the voluntary sector across Scotland’s economy and society and suggest ways to improve the effectiveness of Scotland's National Performance Framework (NPF).

Our position

SCVO believes that the National Performance Framework (NPF) still holds a crucial role at the heart of Scottish public policy and service delivery…

SCVO welcomes the chance to share our thoughts on Scotland's National Performance Framework (NPF). We have always supported the NPF, which includes Scotland's National Outcomes, since its creation in 2007, encouraging public bodies and voluntary organisations to use the framework to guide decisions, spending, and actions.

Scotland's National Outcomes must better encompass the essential role of the voluntary sector across Scotland’s society and economy…

Our submission includes suggestions for improving Scotland's National Outcomes to better reflect the essential role of the voluntary sector in Scotland's society and economy. Other organisations can provide feedback on whether National Outcomes related to particular thematic issues accurately reflect the Scotland we aspire to see.

As a result, our recommendations are as follows:

RECOMMENDATION: To acknowledge the important role that voluntary organisations play as employers to the Fair Work agenda and to accurately represent the inclusion of not-for-profits in current indicator datasets, policymakers should explicitly mention the voluntary sector within the 'Fair Work and Business' outcome.
RECOMMENDATION: To promote inclusive policymaking that goes beyond the public sector and business, it is crucial for the National Outcomes to encompass the diversity of Scotland's economy and society. Policymakers should work with SCVO to rectify the glaring omission of the voluntary/third sector throughout the NPF.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should introduce an indicator to measure progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector' within the 'Communities' outcome, recognising the vital role of voluntary organisations in communities and how essential the sector is to Scotland’s progress.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should collaborate with SCVO, economists, and other stakeholders, including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to create an indicator that uses data sets to quantify the economic value of the voluntary sector, for inclusion in the 2028 review.

Policymakers must consider the structures, processes, and cultures contributing to the delivery of the National Outcomes…

Our response primarily focuses on how the NPF can achieve greater impact. SCVO, and many other organisations, have warned against changing the National Outcomes and National Indicators without addressing the significant implementation gap due to inadequate structures, processes, and cultures that underpin the NPF and its use across Scottish public policy and service delivery.

As a result, our recommendations are as follows:

Visible policy coherence

RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government must build in adequate incentives to establish and maintain a consistent commitment to and leadership of the NPF across all public bodies and their strategies, plans, frameworks, and activities. By doing so, we can effectively support what Carnegie UK calls the 'golden thread.'
RECOMMENDATION: There must be a more in-depth analysis of how policies and activities in economic and other strategies and plans contribute to, interact with, and align across the various National Indicators and Outcomes. This call for a deeper examination is supported by the Finance and Public Administration Committee.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should openly share the methodologies and tools it employs to assess the potential impact and influence of policies and activities on indicators and outcomes. Making this more visible and accessible to the public will foster transparency and confidence and facilitate a broader understanding of the evaluation process.

Effective accountability mechanisms

RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should indicate the next steps it will take to act upon the report of the Scottish Leaders’ Forum on improving accountability to deliver the NPF outcomes, as well as other NPF-related recommendations made by the Scottish Parliament and Audit Scotland.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should provide a clear plan on how it will take forward a Wellbeing & Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill to strengthen duties on public bodies to effectively showcase their contributions to the National Outcomes and establish scrutiny mechanisms to hold public bodies to account.

Inclusive participation and collaboration

RECOMMENDATION: To ensure effective involvement of the voluntary sector and other stakeholders, the Scottish Government should develop clear and inclusive engagement standards. These standards should be incorporated into the guidance and resources created to support the use of the NPF in policy design and implementation.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should explore integrating data from the voluntary sector into National Indicators to address the limited measures of performance and progress within the NPF. This could involve equipping voluntary organisations with tools and guidance to highlight their contributions.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should enhance its data infrastructure to optimise the use of existing and future data collected from voluntary organisations. Many organisations regularly report on outcomes through their funding arrangements, and this data could be valuable if efficiently managed.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should consider adopting the Social Renewal Advisory Board's proposal to enhance the NPF's effectiveness by transforming it into a dynamic dashboard. The revamped NPF would encompass a broader range of experiences, going beyond traditional outcome measures.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government could pilot a flexible approach to data source in measuring progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector' within the 'Communities' outcome. The Third Sector Tracker, partly funded by the Scottish Government, could be utilised to measure progress.

Our response

SCVO has long supported the National Performance Framework (NPF) since its inception in 2007, advocating for the NPF to guide the decisions and actions of public bodies and other organisations, including those in the voluntary sector. As we explained to the Finance and Public Administration Committee during its inquiry, "National Performance Framework: Ambitions into Action," we strongly believe that the NPF can still hold a crucial role at the heart of Scottish public policy and service delivery.

While other voluntary organisations working on thematic issues can comment on whether the National Outcomes relating to issues such as care and education accurately reflect the Scotland we aspire to see, our submission includes multiple suggestions for further enhancing Scotland's National Outcomes to better encompass the essential role of the voluntary sector in Scotland's society and economy. However, our response primarily focuses on how the NPF can achieve greater impact.

As a result, our response is divided into two parts:

Part One: Voluntary sector's contribution to the National Outcomes

Part Two: Structures, processes, and cultures behind the NPF

  • 2A - Visible policy coherence
  • 2B - Effective accountability mechanisms
    • i. Delivering on existing recommendations and commitments
    • ii. Strengthening accountability mechanisms
  • 2C - Inclusive participation and collaboration
    • i. Effective decision-making
    • ii. Data sharing and measurement

Part One: Voluntary sector's contribution to the National Outcomes

RECOMMENDATION: To acknowledge the important role that voluntary organisations play as employers to the Fair Work agenda and to accurately represent the inclusion of not-for-profits in current indicator datasets, policymakers should explicitly mention the voluntary sector within the 'Fair Work and Business' outcome.
RECOMMENDATION: To promote inclusive policymaking that goes beyond the public sector and business, it is crucial for the National Outcomes to encompass the diversity of Scotland's economy and society. Policymakers should work with SCVO to rectify the glaring omission of the voluntary/third sector from the NPF.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should introduce an indicator to measure progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector' within the 'Communities' outcome, recognising the vital role of voluntary organisations in communities and how essential the sector is to Scotland’s progress.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should collaborate with SCVO, economists, and other stakeholders, including the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to create an indicator that uses data sets to quantify the economic value of the voluntary sector, for inclusion in the 2028 review.

With over 46,500 organisations across Scotland, the voluntary sector is wide-reaching and covers every area of society. The voluntary sector is central to the wellbeing economy we want to build. It is a significant economic actor and employer, with over 135,000 staff – 5% of Scotland's 2.67 million workers – and a turnover of £8.6 billion in 2021, as outlined in SCVO’s State of the Sector 2022. While the sector's Gross Value Added to the Scottish economy is currently unknown, estimates at a UK level are in the tens-of-billions.

Despite this, the current framing of Scotland's NPF reflects a need for greater recognition of the voluntary sector's economic contribution and fundamental role across our society. There is no mention of charities, voluntary organisations, or the third sector throughout the framework. While there is one reference to social enterprise, and volunteering sits within the ‘Social Capital’ indicator within the ‘Communities’ National Outcome, this is limited and the NPF no longer captures data relating to social capital and volunteering. Despite the Scottish Government and other public bodies depending on a thriving and sustainable voluntary sector to deliver outcomes across Scotland’s NPF, this crucial reliance is not reflected in the NPF and ultimately presents a significant risk to the public sector’s future investment in and engagement with the sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical role of the voluntary sector in Scotland's communities, and it should no longer be absent from Scotland's NPF. SCVO is calling for the Scottish Government to introduce an indicator to measure progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector' within the 'Communities' outcome, recognising the vital role of voluntary organisations in communities and how essential the sector is to Scotland’s progress. Such as change would demonstrate the Scottish Government’s long-term commitment to the voluntary sector, and we use section 2.C.ii of our submission to outline how this indicator could be measured.

The voluntary sector’s absence is more striking within the 'Fair Work and Business Outcome,' which aims for 'thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone.' Although the vision statement under this outcome mentions social enterprise, the emphasis and focus primarily revolve around the role of businesses, including in the reports on measuring progress against the national indicators linked to this outcome. That is despite the first indicator, which measures the 'number of businesses,' capturing the total number of VAT/PAYE registered private sector enterprises, including not-for-profit organisations.

The data for several other indicators – such as 'Employees on a living wage,' 'Employees on less than a living wage,' 'The pay gap,' 'Contractually secure work,' 'Employee voice,' and 'Gender balance in organisations' - also include data relating to voluntary sector employers, gathered through the Annual Population Survey, Labour Force Survey, and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. While some of the language within this National Outcome refers to organisations as 'employers,' the focus of this outcome centres around business.

Scotland's performance across these indicators that measure our progress as a country relies on employers in Scotland's voluntary sector just as much as it does on for-profit businesses. In the context of indicators for this outcome, the importance of providing Fair Work to paid employees in voluntary organisations is highlighted by diversity and equality statistics outlined in SCVO's State of the Sector 2022.

In 2021:

  • 64.5% of the voluntary sector's paid staff were women. This is consistently significantly higher than the private sector (42.2%). While this year the sector is level with the public sector (64.7%), it usually sits a few percentage points higher.
  • 37% of the sector's workforce work part-time. The voluntary sector consistently has a higher proportion of part-time workers than the private (25.1%) and public (27.6%) sectors.
  • 22.6% of the sector's workforce has a disability as defined by the Equality Act. The voluntary sector employs a higher proportion of people with disabilities than the public (13.7%) or private (12.8%) sectors.

Many of these people play crucial roles in the delivery of public services or projects and services funded through the public purse, and SCVO believes that for them and everyone else who works in the voluntary sector, the Real Living Wage should not be an aspiration or a ceiling – it is the bare minimum anyone should expect. The Living Wage Foundation's report, All Work and Low Pay, confirms that voluntary organisations want to pay their staff at least the real Living Wage and be good employers. However, the system we work in puts up more barriers than enablers.

In 2021, 13.9% of people employed by 'not for profit' organisations were paid below the Real Living Wage. Although a 3.7% decrease from 2018 (17.6%), highlighting improvement, this figure is higher than the public sector (2.7%) but below the private sector (22.6%). Added to this, the median non-profit hourly pay in Scotland is £14.52, 48p below the Scottish average, and £3.19 below the median hourly pay in the public sector in Scotland. These figures all come before the significant pay deals offered to public service workers based in the public sector in recent months. It will be more challenging to work with the Scottish Government to address these challenges if the voluntary sector is not part of its National Outcome on Fair Work.

In preparation for the 2028 review of the NPF, we would also like to see the Scottish Government work with SCVO and partners to develop an indicator that uses data sets to quantify the economic value of the voluntary sector to the social economy and to assess the driving factors behind its growth or decline. Although not all the necessary data to measure this indicator is currently unavailable, the Scottish Government’s intention to track progress against this indicator from 2028 onwards could lend significant momentum to efforts aimed at better understanding the voluntary sector’s economic value, not only to the UK, but also specifically to Scotland.

Progress in this area is already well underway with strong support and investment from the UK Government, following the Kruger Review. Pro Bono Economics (PBE), in collaboration with the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE), has been commissioned by the Department for Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to conduct a feasibility study and develop a preliminary framework for a civil society satellite account that would allow ONS data to be aggregated to better understand the economic value of the sector. Scottish partners, including the Fraser of Allander Institute, are playing a key role in advocating for the inclusion of Scottish-specific data in this work.  

Part Two: Structures, processes, and cultures that contribute to the National Performance Framework

2.A Visible policy coherence

RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government must build in adequate incentives to establish and maintain a consistent commitment to and leadership of the NPF across all public bodies and their strategies, plans, frameworks, and activities. By doing so, we can effectively support what Carnegie UK calls the 'golden thread.'
RECOMMENDATION: There must be a more in-depth analysis of how policies and activities in economic and other strategies and plans contribute to, interact with, and align across the various National Indicators and Outcomes. This call for a deeper examination is supported by the Finance and Public Administration Committee.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should openly share the methodologies and tools it employs to assess the potential impact and influence of policies and activities on indicators and outcomes. Making this more visible and accessible to the public will foster transparency and confidence and facilitate a broader understanding of the evaluation process.

The recent report from the Finance and Public Administration Committee titled "Report on the National Performance Framework: Ambitions into Action" sheds light on the confusion surrounding the influence of the National Outcomes in the NPF on policymaking. We agree that there is often uncertainty regarding the priority of the Scottish Government's frameworks, strategies, and plans. Policy coherence requires a holistic approach, but we do not see consistent connections between these frameworks and the NPF, resulting in a chaotic strategic vision.

During a recent evidence session with the Finance and Public Administration Committee, civil servants noted that the NPF is becoming more embedded and is now part of the culture. However, from an external perspective, the NPF risks being overshadowed by other frameworks and approaches that do not effectively reinforce policy actions across government plans and strategies, as well as those of other public bodies. Achieving policy coherence is crucial for addressing social, economic, and environmental outcomes in a balanced manner, and external perceptions are as important as the internal reality if there is to be collective buy-in. 

The scattered and light-touch approaches to utilising the NPF in recent policy developments in Scotland are concerning. While some government plans and strategies claim alignment with the NPF, such as the recent publication "Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership – A Fresh Start," they often only mention the NPF in passing. For example, the Scottish Government's Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) adopted the four capitals framework instead of utilising the NPF. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) also failed to mention "national outcomes." The Resource Spending Review Framework also needed more clarity on the connections between its priorities and Scotland's National Outcomes.

While we do not advocate for every strategy to align with the NPF visually, there must be stronger and more visible connections between any future iteration of the NPF and such flagship government strategies and policies. The Welsh Government's approach provides a better example of coherence between national goals and the activities and plans undertaken to achieve those goals. For instance, the Welsh Government's recent Programme for Government sets out wellbeing objectives that align with its statutory duty under the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, clearly contrasting with the Scottish Government's alignment with its own wellbeing measures.

We support the recommendations made by the Finance and Public Administration Committee regarding visibility and coherence in the use of the NPF. One important recommendation is for the Scottish Government to clearly and explicitly outline how it will use the NPF in national policymaking. We welcome the Scottish Government's intention to publish resources alongside the next iteration of the NPF to explain and showcase its use in policy development and delivery. All sectors must be genuinely involved in drafting such guidance, and mechanisms should be in place to hold the Scottish Government and others accountable if these standards are not met.

While resources are valuable, they should demonstrate how the NPF "must" be used in policy development and delivery. The Scottish Government should lead by example, demonstrating its commitment to Scotland's National Outcomes and ensuring that its decision-making reflects the journey towards achieving those outcomes, and incentivising others to demonstrate their contributions. Visibility throughout the Scottish Government is vital. Efforts have been made to mainstream and raise awareness of the NPF. However, evidence from the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s recent inquiry in “Effective Scottish Government decision-making” indicates that more needs to be done. For example, civil servants mentioned that the NPF is no longer emphasised in the induction packs for new employees joining the Scottish Government.

2.B Effective accountability mechanisms

2.B.i Delivering on existing recommendations and commitments
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should indicate the next steps it will take to act upon the report of the Scottish Leaders’ Forum on improving accountability to deliver the NPF outcomes, as well as other NPF-related recommendations made by the Scottish Parliament and Audit Scotland.

The consultation's sole focus on the question, "Do the National Outcomes fully describe the kind of Scotland you want to live in?" is unfortunate. While the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act only requires the Scottish Government to review its National Outcomes, it is crucial to address the existing structures, processes, and cultures that contribute to delivering these outcomes. Numerous groups and organisations, including SCVO have emphasised this.

We appreciate that an additional call for evidence has been published that includes some suggested questions on implementation and accountability and our submission responds to this call. However, we had hoped for a more comprehensive review of the NPF, building upon the findings of reports such as the Scottish Leaders Forum (SLF) report, "Improving accountability to deliver Scotland's National Outcomes" (Feb 22), the Finance and Public Administration Committee's report on "NPF: Ambitions into Action" (Oct 22), and the Social Renewal Advisory Board's report titled "If Not Now, When?" (Jan 21). The consultation should have sought detailed views on more developed proposals from these reports.

These concerns are not limited to these reports alone. In 2022, the Equalities, Human Rights, and Civil Justice Committee requested further details from the Scottish Government on how stakeholders' concerns regarding transparency, accountability, and measurability are being considered during the NPF review. The Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee also noted in 2019 that "the NPF should explicitly link to the Scottish Government's individual policies and strategies." These are simply a handful of recommendations and calls to action from Scottish Parliamentary Committee’s since the previous refresh of the NPF in 2018.

These broader issues should have been considered as part of the formal consultation, especially since the Scottish Government expressed its intention to engage with stakeholders to understand how it can better support a system of public service delivery aligned with the National Outcomes. In response, the Finance and Public Administration Committee welcomed the Deputy First Minister's confirmation that the public engagement would go beyond considering only the National Outcomes, by exploring how the NPF can achieve greater impact. While the call for evidence perhaps ticks this box, the Scottish Government should by now be consulting on how it plans to achieve this.  

We appreciate the Scottish Government's commitment to bringing together senior leaders from the public and other sectors through the Scottish Leaders Forum (SLF), which focused on the NPF and published the report, "Improving accountability and incentives to deliver the NPF outcomes and live the values." Published in March 2022, the report highlights that accountability against the NPF is at best "patchy" and calls for support and encouragement for all parts of society to make changes that align with Scotland's National Outcomes. Unfortunately, the consultation falls short of making progress on these issues more than a year on.

Considering the recent attention on the NPF beyond the National Outcomes from various scrutiny bodies, including the Scottish Parliament, independent boards and working groups, and Audit Scotland, the current consultation represents a missed opportunity to make tangible progress on policy proposals and changes related to the structures, processes, and cultures surrounding the NPF, to bridge the implementation gap. It also serves as an example of the lack of effective accountability mechanisms to ensure that such a review aligns not only with the government's statutory duty but also with its previous commitments to scrutiny bodies

2.B.ii Strengthening accountability mechanisms
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should provide a clear plan on how it will take forward a Wellbeing & Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill to strengthen duties on public bodies to effectively showcase their contributions to the National Outcomes and establish scrutiny mechanisms to hold public bodies to account.

SCVO welcomes the Finance and Public Administration Committee's recommendation regarding accountability, which suggests that all government policies, strategies, and legislation explicitly outline how they will contribute to specific NPF outcomes, their intended impact, and the approaches to monitoring and evaluation. In response to this recommendation, we take note of the Scottish Government's acknowledgement of the requirement in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 for public authorities and organisations to consider the National Outcomes when carrying out their devolved functions.

However, it is important to highlight that the Act, which establishes Scotland's NPF on a statutory basis, only mandates Scottish ministers to consult on, develop, and publish a new NPF every five years. It does not require public bodies, the Scottish Parliament, or local authorities to consult on how we measure progress towards the national outcomes, nor does it necessitate institutions to evaluate the impact of their decisions and actions against the 11 National Outcomes.

Nevertheless, we agree that the upcoming review of the NPF should inform the Scottish Government's consideration of a proposed Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (WSD) Bill, which aims to strengthen Scotland's National Outcomes and further integrate wellbeing and sustainable development into decision-making processes across the Scottish Government, public bodies, and local authorities. However, it is worth noting that neither the 2022-23 Programme for Government nor the Scottish Government's latest prospectus, "A Fresh Start," reference this proposed bill. In early 2023, Sarah Boyack MSP introduced a draft proposal for a Members' Bill to facilitate progress on this bill.

Visibility and accountability are closely intertwined, and while introducing resources to support the use of the NPF is a welcome addition, it should be part of a broader programme of work to strengthen accountability mechanisms related to the NPF. The gap between what the Scottish Government said it would do during this review of the NPF and the actual consultation process demonstrates issues with focus, accountability, and urgency. The establishment of a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill, coupled with the appointment of a dedicated commissioner, is crucial for several reasons, especially:

  • putting forward policy recommendations to improve performance
  • eliciting a suitable response to these recommendations from public bodies
  • implementing accountability mechanisms to monitor and report on progress.

The most recent Programme for Government in Wales presents a clear outline of how the Welsh Government has implemented suggested improvements under each wellbeing goal, based on the First Future Generations Report by the Future Generations Commissioner in 2020. This includes the development of a flowchart for setting good wellbeing objectives and illustrating how these objectives contribute to each goal. The framing of the Welsh Programme for Government showcases the efforts to strengthen the connection between policy development and Wales's Wellbeing Goals. It also demonstrates a commitment to listening to, engaging with, and implementing recommendations from the independent Office of the Future Generations Commissioner.

2.C Inclusive participation and collaboration

2.C.i Effective decision-making
RECOMMENDATION: To ensure effective involvement of the voluntary sector and other stakeholders, the Scottish Government should develop clear and inclusive engagement standards. These standards should be incorporated into the guidance and resources created to support the use of the NPF in policy design and implementation.

While the National Outcomes are a crucial part of Scotland's NPF, our values as a nation are also integral. Values within the framework include, 'act in an open and transparent way.' Openness is about the interactions between people, groups, and sectors, including the Scottish Government's - and indeed other public bodies - openness with Scotland's voluntary sector. Greater visibility of how the Scottish Government and other public bodies utilise the NPF across policy and delivery is crucial for transparency. Still, inclusive participation in policy and delivery is essential for openness. 

Over the past 18 months, SCVO has worked with its members and partners across local and national governments to gather information and data on collaboration and partnership working across sectors. In our submission to the Finance and Public Administration Committee's Inquiry into Public Administration - Effective Scottish Government decision-making, we identify four main themes that underpin the relationships between the public and voluntary sectors: time, power, trust, and value.

Collaborative development of policy and legislation by the Scottish and local governments is essential to provide the best support for the voluntary sector and the communities it serves. Involvement of the voluntary sector, transparency, and parity of esteem should underpin any effective decision-making process. As part of our recommendations to the Committee, SCVO believes it would be helpful to have guidance relating to collaboration and partnership, setting out expectations of the government and those who wish to engage with it, including our sector.

General engagement standards could apply to the government's involvement of the sector and other stakeholders. While such guidance could be part of any guidance and resources developed to support the use of the NPF in the design of policy and delivery, the critical issue here would be for all sectors to be genuinely involved in drafting such guidance and for mechanisms to exist to hold the Scottish Government (and engaging partners) to account where these standards are not adhered to.

Strengthening collaboration and partnership is crucial for opening decision-making and aligning with the values and outcomes of the NPF. While we are disappointed that such resources and guidance are not outlined or consulted in this call for views, we remain hopeful that the Scottish Government will dedicate sufficient time and resources to develop guidance and support in partnership with all relevant bodies. This joint effort is vital to ensure Scotland's achievement of its National Outcomes.

2.C.ii Data sharing and measurement
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should explore integrating data from the voluntary sector into National Indicators to address the limited measures of performance and progress within the NPF. This could involve equipping voluntary organisations with tools and guidance to highlight their contributions.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should enhance its data infrastructure to optimise the use of existing and future data collected from voluntary organisations. Many organisations regularly report on outcomes through their funding arrangements, and this data could be valuable if efficiently managed.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government should consider adopting the Social Renewal Advisory Board's proposal to enhance the NPF's effectiveness by transforming it into a dynamic dashboard. The revamped NPF would encompass a broader range of experiences, going beyond traditional outcome measures.
RECOMMENDATION: The Scottish Government could pilot a flexible approach to data source in measuring progress towards a 'thriving and sustainable voluntary sector' within the 'Communities' outcome. The Third Sector Tracker, partly funded by the Scottish Government, could be utilised to measure progress.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB) report, "If not now, when?", presents 20 calls to action that, if implemented, would significantly contribute to progress in Scotland's National Outcomes. The report also delivers a crucial call to action that directly relates to the usability and success of Scotland's NPF; Call to Action 20, found in chapter five of the report, titled "Closing the Gap between promise and practice," states that decision-makers must commit to co-designing the means of measuring progress towards renewal.

The specific call to action states:

"The NPF is a valuable asset but should become a live dashboard, informed by people's experiences as well as current outcome measures, improving our ability to strengthen effective approaches, change course, and address gaps. Committing to this will generate insights which otherwise may be missed in a flurry of performance data."

This aligns with the views expressed by individuals with lived experience  interviewed as part of the Board's engagement process. They support enhancing the NPF with indicators reflecting their lived experiences and the benefits they derive from belonging, confidence and connections, making contributions, and participating.

The Scottish Government should pursue this call to action from the Social Renewal Advisory Board. It highlights the broader role that non-public bodies and citizens can play in monitoring and reporting progress, demonstrating the impact or influence of non-public bodies and communities on improving wider outcomes, including those in the NPF. If Scotland's NPF is to be a framework for the entire nation, rather than just the Scottish Government, it should be informed by the collective input of all stakeholders. This includes making better and more efficient use of data that the Scottish Government already collects from voluntary organisations reporting on outcomes through their funding arrangements.

A source of such data can be found in the Scottish Third Sector Tracker, part funded by the Scottish Government. This tracker gathers quarterly panel data from Scottish voluntary sector organisations, providing valuable insights into the sector's current state, key trends, and developments. It covers various aspects, including organisational challenges, service demand, costs, staff and volunteers, financial health, and funding. The tracker also explores supplementary areas in each wave, such as the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

If this data is supported over the long-term and consistently collected in the future, it could demonstrate the performance of a ‘thriving and sustainable voluntary sector’, as we cover in Part One of this submission. There is precedent for this with the Scottish Government acting as the sole funder of the of the Social Enterprise Census, another valuable data source that could also be used to track progress within the social enterprise cohort of a thriving and sustainable voluntary sector.

Both the Social Renewal Advisory Group and the Scottish Government have emphasised the importance of a thriving and sustainable sector in supporting communities, achieving Scotland's National Outcomes, and facilitating effective public service reform. As part of its Call to Action 18, the SRAB states:

“Public sector and third sector partners should commit to long-term systems of risk and reward which focus on long-term outcomes to achieve shared goals, with the aim of delivering a secure  and sustainable future for the third sector.”

As mentioned previously, it is worth noting that the current NPF does not mention the voluntary or third sector. A more pragmatic approach to data collection, going beyond traditional methods, may be necessary to address this gap. Adopting such an approach would enrich the depth and relevance of data, indicators, and ultimately the National Outcomes, leading to more informed decision-making and better policy outcomes.

A "thriving and sustainable voluntary sector" should and could be measured as part of the NPF, but doing so requires a shift in approach to using other data sources. If we neglect complementary data sources, such as those provided by the voluntary sector, the NPF will always offer a limited perspective on Scotland's progress. This results in either a set of indicators with no relevant data for monitoring performance, as with many indicators in the current framework, or solely relying on indicators that the Scottish Government can measure through traditional data sources.

About SCVO

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national membership organisation for the voluntary sector. SCVO represents the sector at a national level and provides advice and services to voluntary organisations. We champion the role of voluntary organisations in building a flourishing society and support them to do work that has a positive impact. Along with our community of 3,500+ members and supporters, we want to see a thriving voluntary sector at the heart of a successful, fair and inclusive Scotland.

About Scotland’s voluntary sector

The voluntary sector in all its diversity is a powerful force for positive change and a significant part of our economy. From grassroots volunteer-run community groups like village halls and playgroups to major providers of public services in social care and housing, the voluntary sector is present in every aspect of our society and is the glue that holds communities together, with over 46,500 voluntary organisations and 1.2million volunteers.

Together these organisations employ over 135,000 paid staff. A quarter of charities employ staff, and the average income of these charities is around £900k. However, three-quarters of charities are run entirely by volunteers and have an annual turnover of less than £100k. Many deliver vital services and work with some of Scotland’s most marginalised communities. SCVO’s State of the Sector statistics for 2022 are available online.

Contact

Paul Bradley                                                                                                       

Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,

paul.bradley@scvo.scot

Tel: 0131 474 8000

scvo.scot

Last modified on 13 June 2023