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'GOVERNMENT OUT OF STEP WITH PROPOSED PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM'

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The government's constant change and reform of public services is out of step with what the public wants, according...
The government's constant change and reform of public services is out of step with what the public wants, according to a new survey released today by Unison.

A YouGov poll over January of Unison members and the public found a remarkable degree of unity about what they thought would improve public services. Top three options for improving services were:

* Make sure different public service providers co-operate and assist each other

* Tougher inspection and regulation of services to ensure quality standards are met

* Stop making so many changes/reforms

The survey also showed that people delivering and using public services want better quality services, not more choice.

It was commissioned for the union's Positively Public Campaign 2006 launch and was presented today by analyst Peter Kellner.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

'It's not rocket science to realise that the people best placed to suggest ways to improve public services are those people who deliver and use them.

'We seem to be on a merry-go-round of reform. The government is out of step with public opinion. The public is sophisticated - they understand that it takes time for improvements to feed through. Constant change doesn't necessarily lead to improvement - it is impossible to provide effective, quality public services in such an environment.

'The government should take stock of where we are, what we are doing and where we want to go. It should listen to the opinion of the public and service providers.

'The way forward is not simply more choice and competition. Public services have to work together in co-operation, and not compete against each other, or with the private sector for business. In that way, the key issues of service quality and waiting times can be addressed - and as our survey shows that is what staff and the public really want.'

Survey results

Introduction

The people best placed to comment on the future of public services are those who deliver and use them. That is why UNISON's Positively Public campaign is based on the experiences and views of our members and service users on how such services should be developed - and why any debate over our public services must be informed by those views.

In January 2006 UNISON commissioned YouGov to survey just under 1,000 members of the general public, plus a similar number of UNISON members, asking them to tell us what they expect and want from public services, and how they might be improved.

The key findings of this survey will be used by UNISON to direct our Positively Public campaign and develop our work with organisations who, like us, want to see people centred, quality public services.

Fieldwork was carried out by YouGov between January 20-25 2006. The national sample size was 994, weighted to reflect the general population. The UNISON members sample was 1,075, weighted to replicate our membership profile across public services.

For further information regarding the survey please contact theUNISON press office or Positively Public Campaign manager.

Local services convenient and reliable

Q1

Which of the following words would you use to describe public services in your area? (Tick all that apply)

General PublicUNISON members

Convenient2828

Reliable2727

Available to all2732

Efficient2122

Answerable to local people1017

Well funded43

Innovative24

The continuity between the ranking of answers given for questions 1 and 2 is striking. It is clear that both groups consider public services - locally and nationally - to be convenient, reliable and available to all. However, services are not considered well-funded or innovative

National services seen as available to all

Q2

Which of these words would you use to describe public services generally in the UK? (Tick all that apply)

General PublicUNISON members

Available to all2728

Convenient1617

Reliable1313

Answerable to users and local people1314

Efficient910

Well funded33

Innovative12

People want services to be efficient and reliable

Q3

And now, please pick up to four of these words which you would use to describe your top priorities for how public services should be in an ideal world? (Please tick up to four)

General PublicUNISON members

Efficient6959

Reliable5953

Available to all3336

Answerable to users and local people3234

Well funded3043

Convenient2420

Innovative45

There is a high correlation between the general public and UNISON members regarding their aspirations for public services. While the ranking for some of the priorities differ a little, it is clear that efficiency followed by reliability, access and funding are of greatest importance to all the groups questioned.

Raising the quality of services is important to the public and workers alike

Q4

Which, if any, of the following changes would you like to see to public services in your area? (Tick all that apply)

General PublicUNISON members

Raise quality of existing services5561

Reduce time waiting for services4853

Better funding4361

Reduce the cost of providing services4137

Provide better information to service users4145

Access to services in new ways (for example, by internet or phone)4042

Services of equal standard available for everybody3846

Increase the range of services available2934

Round the clock services2828

More staff2843

Services closer to home1717

Quality and waiting times are without a doubt the most important issues for service users and providers. Issues of funding, costs and staffing levels, are understandably greater issues for the workforce at the present time. However, if we set these to one side there is a clear shared list of priorities that places action on raising service quality and responsiveness significantly higher than choice, provision around the clock, and proximity to services.

Workforce wants public services better funded while everyone sees raising the quality of services as a key priority

Q5

And now-still thinking of that same list of potential improvements -which two of them would you most like to see? (Tick up to two)

General PublicUNISON members

Raise quality of existing services3932

Reduce time waiting for services2620

Better funding2241

Reduce the cost of providing services2515

Provide better information to service users1010

Access to services in new ways (for example, by internet or phone)1512

Services of equal standard available for everybody1520

Increase the range of services available99

Round the clock services119

More staff919

Services closer to home56

Co-operation, not competition, is the way to improve public services

Q6

What options from the following list would you choose in order to make public services work better? (Tick up to three)

General PublicUNISON members

Make sure different public service providers co- operate and assist each other6166

Tougher inspection and regulation of services to ensure quality standards are met5342

Stop making so many changes/reforms4355

Put more money into training to increase the pool of skilled and qualified staff3848

Give local managers and staff more freedom over how they do their jobs2230

Allow public service providers to compete against each other to attract users1911

Allow businesses and voluntary groups to run more services1611

Service users and providers undoubtedly agree on what would make public services better. Working together in co-operation, and not competing against one another is believed to be the most important change that could lead to better services. As a result competition and the introduction of non-public sector providers is seen as the least likely means of achieving better services. It is noticeable that the public, as well as UNISON members, call for a stop to constant change and reform among their top three options. UNISON members have placed the 'tougher inspection and regulation of services to ensure quality standards are met' only two places lower than the general public.

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