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Ten Steps to Transformation: 2. Quick wins could mean future defeats

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26 October, 2010

Following last week’s Spending Review, it’s likely you will feel under pressure to cut new approaches or those that at first glance appear marginal and low impact. It will be challenging to continue with seemingly risky or early stage innovation when established services are facing cuts. Yet the real risk lies in not reforming those existing services that are already struggling to cope with changing needs.


The type of approaches that we’ve seen to be very effective – by working with services users, community groups or voluntary organisations to prevent and solve problems – are evidently vulnerable to cuts. But it is these approaches that will save money and alleviate pressure on public services in the future.


You’ll know from increasing workloads how fire-fighting problem as they arise was unsustainable before the budget cuts. It is only going to get more difficult as resources diminish. Although you may not see an immediate impact from preventative interventions now, they might be the way to transform public services. Learn what works by listening to staff and services users. Have confidence that you know what works better, and don’t stop cost-saving approaches before they’ve taken root.


These approaches can save you money and improve the effectiveness of the service. Swindon Council saved over £200,000 in 12 weeks by reforming how they help families in crisis. By engaging staff and service users in co-designing a package of support to suit their needs, the LIFE programme helped unlock the capabilities for families to build and sustain the life they want to lead, depending less on formal service provision. 


Making sustainable savings depends on developing services that draw upon the resources and knowledge in the community and work to prevent problems.  Take Restorative Justice, a project trialled in a number of communities across the UK, including in Somerset. This approach has reduced re-offending rates by 27% and for every £1 spent has saved £9 in reconviction costs.  Or in Nottingham, where the council has realigned services towards prevention and away from fire-fighting.


Interventions like these – which we’ll discuss in more detail in tomorrow’s post – can dramatically improve outcomes and save money. But too often it is these approaches that are the first to be cut. Radically changing the emphasis and design of public services may seem an unaffordable luxury. But in reality, we can’t afford not to.  





By Ruth Puttick 


This post is part of a series about innovation in public services and how it can save money, drawing on NESTA's research and practical experience. To learn more about our work and to read our blogs visit the NESTA website.





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