Thursday, 7 July 2011

A very bad blog post....

Right, I promised to my Twitter followers that I'd blog about the Christie Commission report when it was published a week ago. So far I've failed to read it.

For readers who don't know Scotland or the Scottish Government exist, the Christie Commission was set up in January after the Cabinet realised they'd fudged the budget in November and the "Scissors of Dooms" (reducing income from the Barnett Formula, growing demands on public services) were coming to get them. It put difficult decisions off until after the election and then put the decisions in the hands of a "commission" so the Cabinet could remain Teflon coated when it came to blame. A lot like the Independent Budget Review that was published this time last year.

Luckily, a former colleague in the Government has sent me a neat little summary of the Christie Commission report:

"The report confirms that there is a pressing need for reform of public service delivery (future demand pressures would compound current fiscal tightening) and maps out a way forward founded on four key objectives:

o       building services around people and communities

o       more effective work between delivery organisations to integrate services

o       prioritising prevention and tackling inequalities

o       improved accountability and transparency, leading to improved performance and lower cost.

The priorities identified by the Commission include maximising scarce resources, prioritising preventative measures to reduce demand and driving continuing reform across all public services based on outcomes

The Commission’s recommendations include introducing a new set of statutory powers and duties, common to all public service bodies, to embed community participation in the design and delivery of services."

This repeats a lot of the stuff I've heard about the report. Oddly enough the launch was met with quite a damp squib in the Scottish Press...

Anyhoo, it get's me angry. And puzzled. Let's start with the puzzled. It really does just continue a lot of the political discourse that's been around in Scotland for moons. Since the old Regional Council days we've been obsessed with finding a "corporate" or "strategic" approach to joining up public services to make them better. The Christie Commission also really echoes a lot of the messages in the old Lib/Lab Scottish Executive produced around their 2003 Budget Closing the Opportunity Gap and the 2002 Community Regeneration Policy Better Communities in Scotland: Closing the Gap. So, just in the Ministerial forward of the latter it's stated:

"Social justice is at the heart of the Scottish Executive’s work. Breaking the cycle of deprivation, raising personal and community ambitions, and lifting children out of the misery of poverty are important aims of this government"
"more needs to be done and we believe that community planning is the best way to make sure all agencies work together with deprived communities – and with each other – to deliver better and more responsive services."
See? It seems nothing is new here...

The thing that angers me is the continued focus on early intervention. There is some evidence that early intervention does have an impact on children's later lives. But the evidence is mixed. And from my experience in Government, the discourse around "poor parenting" very easily slips into a much more stigmatising language that implicitly is about "poor parents". Early intervention is widely presented as a solution that will solve all our social problems overnight (c.f. debate on social investment bonds). Yet evidence from longitudinal studies shows the greatest predictor of a household experience poverty is a previous experience of poverty. The Scottish Government's very own Growing Up in Scotland study shows that most poor outcomes are most strongly related to income inequality and poverty. What is more, 40% of Scottish children will experience poverty before the age of five. What we need is income redistribution, not a few more parenting classes. Jam today.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I am just working my way through to see if you have posted anything on 'The Spirit Level'- which used to be subtitled, I think, 'Why more equal societies almost always do better'. I am also thinking now of an episode of R4's 'Thinking Aloud' Where the guy from Joseph Rowntree talked of 'opportunity hoarding'