I’ve been thinking again about how public services demonstrate their worth. As the cull of quangos continues apace, more organisations are looking to see how to prove their value to government before it’s too late. I’ve a presentation to write about this today, so I was interested in an item on the Today programme this morning on the subject.
The gist of the piece was that although quango-cutting may be currently popular and demonstrate a macho approach to saving money, government should think about what’s worth keeping and be careful before it embarks on wholesale cuts. The evidence shows high costs connected with cuts but often little in the way of added efficiency or long-term cost savings. Jobs still need to be done, they’re just done by other agencies or bought back into government, leading to a lack of focus and reduced accountability.
I sympathise with my mate Menthol Dan’s theory that over the next few months we will see a mass cull of NDPBs, a slow disintegration of services, a realisation that something needs to be put back in place and then a process of re-assembling the pieces again.
I’ve said here before that the lack of hard evidence of achievement is a major problem for lots of quangos who don’t have the evidence up their sleeves to show how valuable they are. It’s an issue for lots of voluntary sector bodies too – especially those who receive direct grants from government. NCVO have been looking at the issue as part of their Measuring Outcomes for Public Service Users (MOPSU) programme – there’s a useful summary of the arguments here
The programme is starting to identify possible principles for voluntary sector bodies to use when they’re trying to manage the notoriously difficult job of measuring outcomes – maybe these could be transferred to NDPBs too ?
- Any assessment must be based upon the experience of users rather than the interests of commissioners or providers.
- Outcomes should be directly attributable to the intervention
- The service should be assessed across different ‘domains’, which in turn are weighted to ensure that the service is making a demonstrable difference to the user, and that any difference reflects the different dimensions of any service
- Any measures should carry as low a burden as possible, which in practice leads to the usage of regulatory data collected for existing purposes, if possible.