Transforming Public Services

I was asked a question in my last post about why I was undertaking this exploration of our obligations and some alternative means of delivery. I have explained in an earlier post where the question “do I add value?” came from but it should be noted that there is a wider political drive to ask the same questions. It’s worth reading Transforming Public Services: The next phase of reform from the Scottish Executive.

I’ve copied a couple of extracts below which give a flavour of the document and its central thrust:

From the

4. We have a window of opportunity in 2006 to agree the direction of change and we would urge all those involved not to be constrained in their thinking about how best to organise our public services for future generations but to embrace the chance to use their imagination and think about what would really make a difference to the people of Scotland. The process of change will be continuous over the long term with the key period for implementation occurring during 2007-2011.

5. Our ambitions for service transformation apply across the whole public sector. The proposals and options in this paper are relevant to local government, police and fire services, the NHS, the enterprise networks, further and higher education institutions, the justice system, the Executive itself and the range of NDPBs and executive agencies.

6. We do not propose to adopt a one-size fits all approach to the vast range of public services, and different communities across Scotland. Some services are delivered nationally, some regionally, and others locally. Our challenge to local communities and public services is to work with us to identify the reforms that will transform service delivery in their area.

7. The challenge to reform applies equally to the Executive. We must transform the way we plan, fund, direct, and oversee public services and remove barriers to service transformation. We want to work in partnership to design a framework for public services that is sustainable, integrated, fit for purpose and user centred.”

Point 6 is a key element for me, i.e. they are not proposing a “one-size fits all” approach – there is a flexibility to come up with solutions – at least there is at the moment.

I think the last sentence in point 7 sets out what we should be attempting to create – easy to write – much more difficult to achieve.

In the same introduction a series of challenges are set out which face Scottish Public Services.

” But there is no doubt that our public services have to be more responsive and effective and that we face a number of long-term challenges over the next 20 years, which we cannot meet unless we accelerate the pace of modernisation and reform:

  • We have a more diverse and individualistic society with different aspirations and expectations. People are better equipped to make assessments of service quality and to judge service quality against the best elsewhere, and they expect services tailored to their needs.
  • The unparalleled growth in expenditure on public services in recent years is not likely to continue indefinitely, particularly when our economy faces increasing competition from Eastern Europe, India and China.
  • We are experiencing unprecedented technological change – with opportunities to deliver services in new ways, but also risks of increased inequality.
  • The proportion of people of working age in the population is shrinking. The fact that so many of us are living longer is a cause for celebration, but we cannot deny that it will put public services under increasing pressure if we do not reform.
  • There is declining engagement with the political process and generally with the public sphere. This could fuel a loss of trust in public services unless we can demonstrate that they are valuable and efficient, and match the best that can be found elsewhere.
  • Our determination to improve economic opportunity is informed by the social disadvantage that is still experienced by too many in our country.”

I think the reasons set out in the paper are very compelling and I reckon we have three option:

  1. put our heads in the ground and hope it goes away;
  2. wait for someone else to some up with the solution;
  3. become directly involved in the debate and be proactive about our future.

I’m obviously attracted to the latter course of action and hope that this exploration in the area of education can help us in a small way to find some of the answers to the challenges set out above.