Connecting Policy with Practice

Connecting Policy with Practice, a year-long study of the relationship between Whitehall policy-making and frontline public service delivery by charities has identified five “fundamental disconnects” between policy and practice.

The research programme, initiated by the Big Lottery Fund and the Institute for Government, paired up 15 voluntary sector people with 15 civil servants to examine the design, funding and collaboration around services from each of their perspectives.

The five “fundamental disconnects” identified by the report are:

  1. Vulnerable people’s lives don’t fit neatly into nice categories. Their lives are often messy and complex, while policy tends to be made in silos and focused on single interventions.
  2. Policy is “chopped and changed” frequently as political agendas shift, often which hinders service design and delivery.
  3. There is enormous value to be found in preventative services yet policymakers still seem to favour crisis interventions.
  4. Good policy intentions can get lost as they trickle down to the front line and policy is re-interpreted. Even good policies often lead to perverse outcomes.
  5. Service users are still not adequately involved in service design.

The programme is part of the Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change initiative, which it is devoting at least £500million to over the next eight to ten years.

People Powered Change was sparked by BIG’s desire to support more early-intervention, preventative services designed around the individual and delivered using a collaborative approach, to tackle the toughest, most entrenched social problems.

The themes BIG is addressing in People Powered Change are early years, youth unemployment, adults with multiple and complex needs, the ageing society and the mental health needs of young people. The Connecting Policy with Practice programme focused on adults with complex needs and young people not in employment, education or training.

Over the year, the pairs spent time with each other to allow the policy-makers to see the challenges of delivery first hand, and enable charity staff to gain a greater understanding of the policy-making process.

The intention is that many of the civil servants that participated in the programme will take their experiences back to their day jobs, and as several of them worked in cross-cutting positions, their learning from the programme would filter through across various departments and local authorities.

To download the full report visit