ACEVO launches ‘Remaking the State’

To view the Call to Action/Executive Summary, please see here.

To view the full research report, please see here.

For the key graphics from the report, please see here.

The delivery of public services is too often misguided, monolithic and inappropriate is the conclusion of a report which, today, calls for a comprehensive redefinition of the relationship between Government, charities and the public they both serve.

The existing emphasis on meeting short-term targets frequently loses sight of the delivery of meaningful cost-effective public services to those most in need.

Three ground-breaking proposals are among a number being recommended by the ACEVO Commission on Delivering Better Public Services.

The report ‘Remaking the State’ recommends:

1) Pushing prevention spending to biting point through sustained cross-sector advocacy: a campaign to push prevention spending to five and then ten per cent of the total public spend in key delivery departments. This is our Five for the Future campaign to realise more humane public services. We will be campaigning on this until it our ambitions realised, and urge all those who support better public services to do the same.

2) Breaking up big, harmful public service procurement programmes: a community first test to empower local organisations bidding for contracts in key service areas dealing with vulnerable people, which specifies weighting for social value when making contract decisions

3) Outlining and enforcing the standards citizens deserve: a public services constitution enforced by a power of super-complaint (borrowed from the consumer sector) which gives citizens greater rights to remedy harmful public service systems

The Commission has been jointly chaired by author, economic commentator and journalist Will Hutton and Rob Owen, the Chief Executive of the St Giles Trust, who fear that there is a danger of chronic damage to public services.

The Commission argues, for example, that the cuts to preventative services of up to 45 per cent over the last five years are profoundly misguided and often self-defeating. The anticipated “savings” often turn out to involve higher public expenditure in later years: a commitment to long-term financial prudence demands investment in prevention if public spending is truly to be lowered.

NHS England believes, for example, that £30 billion a year is lost through lack of patients’ engagement with their own health. The long-term financial imprudence is evident but in the interim the collateral damage is borne by the thousands of lives that have been irreparably damaged.

This short sightedness is further reflected in the deployment to date of the Work Programme which insists on applying universal solutions to a kaleidoscope of needs. The report argues that the Work Programme as it stands should be reborn – better able to help those furthest from the labour market and those facing multiple barriers to work.

And this reform should not just apply to the Work Programme. A ‘Community First’ test should be introduced to reflect the conclusion that, whether for employment or the rehabilitation of offenders, one size does not fit all. The ‘Community First’ test in the award of public service contracts would insist that the meaningful improvement of people’s lives is placed above consideration of price.

The importance of the individual should be further reinforced by a legal right to take out a mass action – a ‘super-complaint’ – against those responsible for public services. The models and mechanisms for this already exist, for example, via Citizens Advice, Which? and some statutory regulators. This proposal has already garnered the support of Citizens’ Advice.

Commenting on their report Remaking the State’ Will Hutton and Rob Owen said: “We believed and still believe in the values and aspirations of the Big Society, in which strong civic and social institutions take their place alongside traditionally funded public services to deliver care and quality that deliver great long-term value, rather than cheap, poor mirror-image services that have sadly failed in the past

“We believe that the real solutions proposed in our report can form the foundations for a new social contract which represents the original aspirations of the Big Society. We urge and hope the government will accept our recommendations.”

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