The Government should be much clearer about what it means by choice in public services, according to a new report published today (26th November 2012) by the MCA (Management Consultancies Association). And ministers should launch a massive campaign – through new Choice Concordats – to increase the information that is provided to citizens, explain the available choices and improve understanding of their consequences.
The MCA’s report is a contribution to the debate sparked by David Boyle’s review for the Cabinet Office into the barriers to choice in public services. Choice in Public Services: Making Choice Real is based on the insights and ideas of a host of the country’s leading experts from within MCA member firms, and was written by Paul Connolly.
The report highlights two key proposals:
· First, it will help policy-makers and the public if everyone is clear about what types of choice are being offered and why. The MCA paper suggests a new typology revolving around concepts such as ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ choices. Horizontal choices are where users can select from different suppliers of a particular service (e.g. choosing a new GP or school) and vertical choices are where people choose from a menu of service options that are available. The paper also discusses the role of personalised budgets, commissioning and the expression of preferences.
Alan Leaman, Chief Executive of the MCA said:
“Reform of public services is bedevilled by the fact that the same words are used to convey very different meanings, even within the same government documents. While the language we propose may need to be adapted, these clearer distinctions will help create good policy, dispel muddled thinking and increase public understanding and support for reform.”
· Second, choice involves reciprocal responsibilities. The public may need to share greater personal information in order to access more personalised services. The MCA proposes a series of Choice Concordats, in which the citizen’s rights and obligations are explained far more clearly.
Naresh Mohindra, Tata Consulting Services, said: “If people want a service that is personalised, they must be upfront about disclosing information about their circumstances and needs.”
Alan Leaman added: “At the moment, choices are too often hidden from view, and the comparative data which we need to make sense of them is not available. Information, relentlessly offered, is vital if people are to make effective choices – or even to make choices at all. And it must be explained how citizens can benefit from the choices that are provided.”
Phil Dungey, Atos Consulting, added: “Information on government websites often reflects government structures, not the needs of users.”
The report also highlights examples of where management consultants have worked with government departments to deliver better choices to the users of public services – and often saved money as well for the taxpayer.
Delivering horizontal choices
Transform helped the Department for Education enhance the way parenting advice is delivered by providing a range of new online services in partnership with the voluntary sector. The Department’s ambition was to grow the number of people accessing advice from 90,000 in 2008 to 835,000 in 2011. In fact, more than 10million users were supported in 2008-11, and costs were reduced by 97%.
Delivering vertical choices
PwC worked with Newham University Hospital Trust to redesign patient services. Services were examined from the viewpoint of patients and new ‘patient pathways’ introduced, overseen by a ‘patient pathways coordinator’. This substantially reduced costs and improved productivity. The trust secured £1million savings per month, and this approach is now widely adopted across the NHS.
Providing personalised services
iMPOWER helped Coventry City Council introduce a mix of travel budgets and self-managed transport for children with special needs. Non-adopters are not disadvantaged but simply continue to use old arrangements. The visibility of benefits will encourage wider adoption. Because officers see self-designed service options, this influences what they offer those who have not opted to self-manage. The programme has moved around150 passengers to personalised budgets and about 50 to independent transportation. It is on course to realise 12% savings for the service.
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About the Management Consultancies Association
The Management Consultancies Association (MCA) is the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK. Our sixty member companies comprise around 70% of the UK consulting industry, estimated to be worth £9bn in 2008, employ more than 40,000 consultants and work with over 90 of the top FTSE 100 companies and almost all parts of the public sector.
The MCA’s tough entry criteria and rigorous Code of Practice mean that MCA member companies are widely acknowledged to provide high quality services to their clients. Many of their achievements are recognised in the annual MCA Management Awards and the Consultant of the Year Awards.
The MCA informs and influences public debate on topical issues, and provides authoritative data on the industry. It commissions research and policy analysis and represents the industry in discussions with Government and other stakeholders. The MCA also facilitates networking and the sharing of best practice within the industry through events, publications and initiatives such as the Young MCA.