Current projects
The local effects of policy piloting
The local effects of policy piloting

This project examines the effects of national pilot schemes initiated by the Department of Health on local implementation sites. It uses the example of adult social care, which is organised by local authorities. Piloting has become an established mechanism of introducing social care policy change and of stimulating local engagement with national policy ideas. Previous work by PIRU focused on the motivations of national policy-makers to initiate pilot programmes and has examined the multiple – and sometimes contradictory – purposes of piloting. This work showed that local sites involved in piloting often had to live up to the dual expectation of helping to establish whether policy 'works' and of achieving policy change in their areas that was sustainable and effective beyond the life span of the pilot scheme.

This project uses the example of adult social care to explore why local authorities decide to participate in national schemes, what they expect to get out of them, and whether their expectations have been fulfilled. Adult social care directors were interviewed to elicit their reasons for participating in national pilot schemes, their experience of implementing pilots and their views of the effects of these schemes on local implementation and service provision. Understanding the perspective and experience of local implementers will help develop evaluation designs that can support local sites in their efforts of facilitating sustainable change to policy and practice. This knowledge will also help national policy-makers to understand better the aspirations of local implementers and their need for both direction and flexibility. It can also help explain why some pilot programmes struggle to maintain local support.

PIRU is carrying out the project in collaboration with RAND Europe.

The project began with a mapping exercise that used an extensive internet search to find out which national policy pilot programmes local authorities and other local organisations participated in since 2010.

Data collection for the interview study was conducted between October 2016 and March 2017 and included 26 interviews with adult social care directors in local authorities. The majority of them were in post at the time of the interview, while some reflected on piloting from the position of past experience as a director.


This project will result in a book chapter and a scientific paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Links to both resources will be provided as soon as they are available.