Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Personalising Public Services

Where next on Public Service Reform? Gordon Brown has made clear at a recent press conference that he wants to push further with radical reforms to our public services. He argues that we need, "to ensure the best opportunities for people through reformed public services that are tailored and far more responsive to people’s needs."

He said, " I think you’ll be surprised in how short a time you will see the prospectus that we are going to put forward for Britain’s future... when people face a choice it will be about the future of our public services [as well as reform on expenses and progress on the economy]".

In our ACEVO discussions with the Conservatives it is clear they too want to be radical. And I suspect with public spending cuts there is no option but to reform the system. We know that the abysmal failure to reform prison and probation services have merely ensured rising crime and greater costs to the State. Only by seriously diverting money from the prison budget into rehabilitation will you both cut spending long term but also reduce crime. A prisoner who is given a job and home is not just less likely to stay away from offending again , but is also making a net contribution to the state. Our failure to get ex offenders into jobs and homes swells public spending and harms society. The Conservatives have strong plans for change. It is a shame Jack Straw has not driven this agenda harder against the dinosaur forces in the prison establishment.
But I welcome the fact that there will be serious political debate on public services. Our role as a third sector deliver ought to be right at the heart of that debate. And I will ensure ACEVO makes it so. The most interesting aspect of reform thinking at the moment is the drive to "personalisation ", i.e, giving people control of their own budgets to spend on public services. Acevo has recently established a Commission to Review what this reform will mean for us as third sector bodies. Matthew Pike, the great thinker and reformer, is Chairing and we have a stellar cast from the think tanks like Policy Exchange and Demos to sector stars like Lynne Berry, Joyce Mosley and Virginia Beardshaw. We have even involved the DH and OTS so to ensure our thinking reflects back into government policy making.

In my discussions with ACEVO members I have detected mixed views and not always great enthusiasm for this agenda. Some however see it as a huge opportunity for growth. Of course it will be more difficult to deal with 4000 people, as opposed to a block contract with a County Council for the same. But the end result will mean a better and more personal service for our clients- and that's what counts.

But whatever ones view I know we need to be prepared for change. So part of the role of the Commission is to help our CEOs prepare for change and to be out front in winning those personal contracts. If we are smart we will ensure people buy from us because we offer a better service than our rivals in the public or private sectors. And maybe we also drive alliances and partnerships?

This will probably mean change to our internal systems and IT and this may need capital investment. A key role for Futurebuilders and with my other hat on we are looking at how to support such capitalisation.

So exciting times. Will we be ahead of the curve? Or in the back row carping and moaning about change? I know where a Chief Executive has to be!

Yesterday proved a tiresome day...hours in casualty with a problem on the eye front (got sorted, but depressing) so a welcome trip to the House of Lords to celebrate 120 years of Cambridge House . This is a settlement established in Southwark and which is run by a brilliant CEO , who is an active acevo member . They have evolved over the century into a vibrant community anchor providing support and leadership to communities in a diverse and challenging london borough . I enjoyed meeting the Leader of Southwark Council and other local personalities and the many clients of the centre. Our new Minister gave a great speech . She is clearly delighted to be in this role and showed both her grasp of the huge potential for the sector and an eagerness to use her time to promote and enhance the third sector as core to recovery . I very much agreed with her key message that difficult though times are for many in our sector , we are part of the answer to recovery . I told her that I had had a warm message of support from my parents for her . They both live in a small village , Orsett in Essex , which is in her constituency. They know Angela and strongly approve of her work as a local MP. And clearly Angela has great judgment as she tells me she has been reading my Blog. It's good to know she is tapped into the best and most accurate source of information about the sector ( and its gossip).

And whilst there I get a text from one of my old mates in the Commons to tell me they have voted for JohnBercow as new Speaker . I'm delighted . I know John well . He was , of course , a former Lambeth Councillor . Many very great people have been Lambeth Councillors , not to mention graduates of Oxford ( naturally ). I intend to get Speaker Bercow to an acevo event soon . And having been at a reception in Speakers House with the redoubtable Boothroyd I hope we might even see an acevo reception there . That is not a hint John....


Janet F said...

I do wish you'd split your blog entries into 'serious, of value, and worth comment' (like the first half of this one) and 'ad-hoc banal mutterings' - it would make it so much easier to feel able to comment (and to not reach the end of the post and have changed one's mind about the value of any comment). Fortunately I stuck with it...

Public Services and the Personalisation agenda - this should be a wonderful opportunity for third sector organisations as, generally, their focus is much more on the end result of their efforts (i.e. impact on the individual recipients of the service) than the process of the efforts themselves (who does what and how) - combine this with ongoing improvements in 'professionalism' (combining all the areas of governance, people management, planning, operational efficiency etc) and the right structure (i.e. probably not a charity itself) and third sector organisations can expect to have an increasing responsibility, and impact, in this area.

However this won't be a given - unless organisations can demonstrate that they can lead (and so, Stephen, the right funding may be required) rather than just play bit parts, then the private sector (with their wasted focus, compared to the third sector, on making profits at the expense of service) will take the lead instead.

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

thanks Janet, i do enjoy your contributions....love the " ad hoc banal mutterings " , but if it became too too serious i guess some of the readers might turn away as they are rather into the muttering bit!!And the spoof blog would then have no material either!

Janet F said...

Fair point... I guess it takes all sorts - I'll put up with the muttering!