Welcome to the summer edition of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute’s Understanding Society. In this issue we consider public service reform in the UK, and the future challenges they face in meeting public expectations and changing needs at a time of severe spending constraints.
The government has made much of its desire to make public services and central government more efficient, claiming to have delivered “cashable efficiencies” of £3.75 billion just in the first ten months in office. But aspirations go further than that, with ambitions to transform the way services operate and to open government up to new ideas, new ways of delivering services, and to new technology. As Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office said, “we need to be on the cutting edge ensuring our services are fit for the 21st century – agile, flexible and digital by default”.
Much of the government’s narrative centres on putting the citizen at the centre of the system. To make this a reality and design services that will meet users’ requirements, the relationship between public services, the state and the citizen and how to engage service users needs to be just as much part of the debate as budget cuts.
To help contextualise the current challenges, we are delighted to have an interview with former Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service, Gus O’Donnell. Now raised to the peerage as Baron O’Donnell, of Clapham in the London Borough of Wandsworth, he considers how the public sector and civil service changed during his time working for three different prime ministers, and the challenges ahead.
Also in this edition, we are very pleased to have an interview with Tim Kelsey, who after a year as Director of Transparency and Open Data at the Cabinet Office, is to become National Director for Patients and Information at the new NHS Commissioning Board. Tim sets out his vision for how technology can help transform aspects of patients’ interactions with health services and free up resources. This is closely connected with attitudes to privacy and datasharing, and we also discuss research carried out with Deloitte on what citizens, as customers of business and users of public services, feel about the collection, use, and sharing of data.
We are also extremely grateful to Jenny Grey, Executive Director of Government Communication for Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, for her view on the future of her profession. Jenny discusses the role of government communicators in the current austere times, and how they can employ new techniques and cross departmental boundaries to achieve their aims.
This edition also includes our analysis of:
- the latest on perceptions of public services, and the social values these are based on;
- how technology can transform charitable giving;
- the role of regulators; and
- the impact on public services if Scotland decides on independence.
An understanding of public attitudes to public services in Britain should be an essential component of the reform process, and we hope you enjoy reading our latest thoughts on this. At the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute
, we remain committed to sharing the messages from our research in the belief that a better understanding of public opinion will lead to better social outcomes and service design.