The Individual and the State: co-production and interdependency in the mixed economy of public service consumption
‘Bricks without Straw’
Co-production – For whose purpose and potential?
11 July 2016
The Individual and the State: co-production and interdependency in the mixed economy of public service consumption Paper 5 ‘Bricks without Straw’ Co-production – For whose purpose and potential? In the early days – in April 2010 – of our discourse on the evolution of the relationship between the state and the individual preceded Coalition Government and, though we could all foresee a tightening of belts, the imposition of Austerity, maybe for five years, the cause for holding breath perhaps.
Our concerns were primarily about generating understanding of how to achieve substantial improvement and impact in ‘public’ services by promoting transformation based on changing perception and expectation of where sustainable improvement would actually come from – by promotion of the concept of the public’s services.
Our particular concerns included;
• the evolution of alternative delivery / delivery support channels;
• how services could be most effectively be ‘joined up’, and particularly integrated at the point of delivery recognising the needs of the individual and family in the round; and
• especially of the understanding of how the trust in a trusted source could itself be established where it did not already exist, and how it could be sustained.
Six years on, recognising that I am finalising this paper in the wake of both the Referendum, and this morning of the release of the Chilcott Report, and against a background o profound uncertainty about how the leadership issues of both national government and opposition parties the agenda looks a great deal more problematic; with breaking down of public trust manifest at international EU – notably over the EU Commission’s inability to address the the conflict in the middle east and the consequential migrant crisis, government, notably to demonstrate any ability in the last 20 years to manage – the operative term is Control;
and likewise breakdown in local UK services; with national headline issues in; Health – re-opening of the junior doctor’s dispute; together with such items profiled in national news Today Programme 6 July 2016
A mother whose child was born with severe cerebral palsy following mistakes during the birth has been awarded £11 million in compensation. The mother, who chose to remain anonymous, gave birth at King George Hospital, part of Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust, told Today presenter Sarah Montague what went wrong. The NHS set aside over £26 billion last year to cover the costs of compensation for medical negligence – nearly a quarter of its entire budget.
Schools – NUT teachers 1-day strike against government failure to fund education fully Transport – Southern rail
All set against a cumulative impact of
• pressure on public services has meant prioritisation on the ‘musts’, seemingly upon an ever narrowing range of duties, has pulled attention and away from the ‘nice to haves’, there are less and less resources to exercise powers to deliver discretionary benefit;
• faced with circumstances that look ever more like the zero sum game producer interest itself becomes destructive of change; and
• the public is confused at best; and inevitably drawn into taking sides.
• there is evident distrust both of our public bodies, and widespread disbelief of the political leaders directing them and of their motives
The gradual reduction of funding from all but ‘ring-fenced’ core services, i.e. NHS, Education, Pensions, and de facto withdrawal from others, particularly social housing, have, from the local community perspective, been seen as an atomisation of public service in which both eligibility and access are increasingly limited, where not actually denied.
Explanation of the outcome of 23rd June have identified fundamental anger of those ‘disenfranchised’ sections of our society whose experience of the changes of the last 30, and particularly last 15 years have been consistently negative, falling standards of living, problematic access to public services, and changes to the way they see and recognise their local communities. They did not feel they were stakeholders any more and voted against an establishment that they perceived had nothing to say to them.
But the frustration and anger has run in the other direction also, particularly in London and the other major cities where the vote to leave has not simply undermined their perceptions of their economic interests but produced an image of a society they want nothing to do with.
It is not as if we have not been here before. Rather the reverse. The revelations of sleaze in the early 1990’s gave rise to the Nolan Principles of Public Office;
• Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
• Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
• Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
• Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
• Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
• Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
• Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
Well that worked then when it came to the Expenses Scandal10 years later. And it has clearly informed corporate attitudes towards corporate employment practice, pay and pensions since then
If therefore the breakdown of trust and shared identity are critical macro issues in the overall evolution of the structure of the Uk state to what extent are they not also critical in the delivery of local, and particularly individual, personal, services on a local basis and of the prospects of achieving significant improvement through change based upon co-production.
Certainly as each year has passed since 2010 it is clear that changing demographics, of increasing percentage of over 60’s for society to support at one end of the graph, to growing numbers of young families at the other which would in ordinary circumstances be seen as a source of strength in the longer term, seem only problematic in the short run.
And the key to addressing this question has been the gradual withdrawal of funding available to local authorities which, if now reinstated, would allow them to be the catalyst of delivering local change. Critical in this mix is the rediscovery of the role of local trusted sources that, sitting outside silos of producer interest are able to support and represent the individual in the round, particularly the hard to reach.
There are a great many models for achieving this successfully and there are clearly advantages in taking a pluralistic approach where local frameworks and networks evolve on a local basis. Now supported almost entirely through private fundraising and voluntary effort Highgate Newtown Community Centre (HNCC) provides an example.
HNCC fulfils three main functions; First and foremost simply a safe, warm and happy place for local people to be, to participate in a range of activities in which they can meet and engage with others, a range of parents and under 5’s activities, 2-touch football, dance for older people, a mens cooking group, a food bank; a warm meal in the canteen; a laundry. Second to find specific support and help to address specific issues; individual, family; and Third to pursue activity with developmental, aspirational, interest in mind, especially craft and arts including ceramics, woodwork; sewing and knitting, painting and drawing classes for all ages.
But as can be found across the country such centres are under great pressure, not simply for want of stable finances but also because of other pressures, arising in HNCC’s case (which lies in the London Borough of Camden) from the Borough’s desire to maximise access to social housing itself funded from mixed development of high value housing subsidising shed equity and affordable housing.
The words of Joy Jolly, who describes herself as an ordinary HNCC member’s (which is to say participant in HNCC activities) appeal to local councillors to understand the role and potential of HNCC, speak both from the heart, and a deeply held sense of conviction about the importance of the Centre being understood by the Borough. The Community imperative is therefore that instead of being treated as an inconvenience by the Council it should be be given instead a central priority in plans neither to be lost in a faceless anonymity of a modern development; or compromised by the artificial, if not outright cynical justification of maximising the monetised value of imposed rent upon community services who can only raise such funding from external grant sources; itself therefore a misapplication of what such financing is supposed to support
The wide range of activities and community support facilities all under one roof benefits and supports a whole community in all its diversity. The hard-working staff …. together weave all these strands into a place that is truly a huge asset to our community. There is potential and plans for more activities, some of which may attract community funding and will be of further benefit and support to the local residents. For example there are plans to hold an after-school art club for children.
The current site development plans that are being considered, would see this wonderful centre demolished and its services and activities dispersed to other venues or some, possibly lost entirely. In the interim, while we wait for a new building, the ethos and heart of the community centre would lie in the balance, atomized around the area instead of integrated in one hub. There are many users of the activities and services who feel that such a dispersal would be disastrous, and we fear that, once lost or fragmented, the centre would not be the same again. We fear also that the plans will be amended again and again resulting in less space for the community centre and fewer activities and services therefore able to be offered. Thus any potential for growth and development is also lost.
We worry how the proposed rental charges would be raised. Currently the centre operates on a charitable basis on a shoestring – kind donations from the community and patrons and support from local business may not be so forthcoming if the centre were to need to raise rent for the council. Of course, community charity funding would not be granted to pay for this.
I am calling upon you as my local Councillor to please do everything in your power to support the Highgate Newtown Community Centre and to champion its survival and development. I ask you to commit your political support to bring about a positive result that will keep this valuable community resource together, body and soul. There are many of us who would be much the worse off without it. The key point however is that The wide range of activities and community support facilities is all under one roof benefits and supports a whole community in all its diversity.
What is clear from the HNCC experience is that the activities link families, and individuals together and if there is one phrase that links them it is that we help people build their self confidence. There is nothing more obviously fulfilling than watching someone who might have felt they could not do something to find that they can do it, and very well. and, seeing their work on display, ben able to say to themselves ‘I did that’. Self belief enables people to take their lives forward and it is he chemistry of this that will assist the reestablishment of trust between those that perceive themselves excluded and public services.
To what degree are we exploring the possibility of major behaviour change on a comprehensive, universal, basis; driven by fundamental shifts in normative behaviour and expectation. If so what arrangements do we need to put in place to build the trust and support the principle of coproduction between the individual and the state, between
• Establishing realistic expectations of what state provided services can be afforded and delivered
• Access criteria to services and responsive interdependency between the present arrangement of public services and how they might evolve
• principles of communication between public services and the individual particularly in provision of information advice, and establishing and reinforcing of normative behaviour e.g. for health related issues such as weight;
• personal incentives And what institutional changes need to be made to support these bearing in mind that if responsibility for service is to be co-produced; so the ownership of the institutional framework is central. The critical consideration therefore is to model how the role of local trusted source needs to evolve as a catalyst with the critical functions being;
• communal outreach
• expectation of outcomes
• standards and accountability It is only with addressing these questions that the critical question of determining how appropriate scale, proportion and sources of funding can be formulated, including;
• Central exchequer
• Local taxation
• Individual contribution
In broad terms there are three main sets of issue that need exploration;