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INITIATIVE TO PUT USERS AT THE HEART OF PUBLIC SERVICES

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The National Consumer Council, the Confederation of British Industry and the National Council for Voluntary Organis...
The National Consumer Council, the Confederation of British Industry and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations are joining forces to reshape the debate about the future of public services.

The new alliance - Future Services - will take the voice of users to the heart of the public service reform debate.

A YouGov poll, commissioned to coincide with the launch, showed that while voters support better management, increased investment and more choice they also feel excluded from the debate about public services and don't trust politicians to reflect their views. 80% of people asked, said they feel uninvolved in the debate and 76% don't believe politicians understand what they want from public services.

Future Services will promote greater public participation and engagement in the reform of public services, to ensure that users are centre-stage of the debate.

Speaking on the eve of the launch Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council and founder member of Future Services, said: 'The best and most sustainable way to improve services is to raise the expectations and entitlements of users.

'It is time to recognise that public services are not just a contract with the public, but a partnership with it. The user role in promoting health and education or tackling local crime and anti-social behaviour is vital. Users are not just ordinary people demanding a better service and fairer treatment. They are an asset that is consistently being overlooked.'

Rod Aldridge, chairman of the CBI public services strategy board, said: 'Continuous improvement in the quality of public services and of the experience of public service provision is something that citizens want and expect for themselves and the wider community. This requires a cultural as well as a service delivery revolution - the real challenge is to put customers in the driving seat. Better partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sectors is releasing greater capacity and encouraging different ways of working to create services based around the needs of users.'

Campbell Robb, NCVO's director of public policy said: 'The voluntary sector has a unique ability to involve users and communities, utilising its specialist skills and experience to secure a better deal for its beneficiaries. Future Services will try and ensure that users are put centre stage in discussions about the future of our public services. This collaboration will provide a space where consumer, user and citizen perspectives can be adequately aired so that public services can be shaped by the people and communities who use them.'

Notes

1. Future Services work programme will include:

- A major project to develop models of customer relationship management for public services;

- Pioneering qualitative and quantitative research into the views of end users of public services plus analysis of existing research commissioned by the public sector;

- A series of political and policy round table events about public services that brings user and consumer groups together with policy makers (including work with Smith Institute, New Statesman and main political party conferences).

2. A YouGov survey of 1,989 people across the UK between 6 and 9 July 2004 asked:

'How confident are you that politicians understand what people want from their public services?'

Very confident 2%

Fairly confident 20%

Not very confident 45%

Not confident at all 31%

Don't know 2%

'Thinking purely about yourself and your family as users of public services, how involved do you feel in the current debate on the future of public services?'

Very involved 3%

Fairly involved 13%

Not very involved 49%

Not involved at all 31%

Don't know 3%

'If you think public services need improving which of the following do you think would improve public services - for each case please say whether you think it would or would not improve services, or whether it would make no real difference'

Greater investment from government...

Would improve public services 62%

Would NOT improve public services 12%

Would make no difference 20%

Don't know 5%

Better management of public services...

Would improve public services 89%

Would NOT improve public services 4%

Would make no difference 4%

Don't know 4%

Increased choice of services available to users...

Would improve public services 54%

Would NOT improve public services 18%

Would make no difference 20%

Don't know 8%

3. Future Services comprises the NCC, NCVO and the CBI.

NCC

The NCC is an independent consumer expert, championing the consumer interest to bring about change for the benefit of all consumers. The NCC has a long-standing commitment to ensure that people have a voice and a choice in the provision of the services and products that affect the quality and experience of their lives.

NCVO

The NCVO is the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in England, with sister councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. NCVO has a growing membership of over 3,500 voluntary organisations, ranging from large national bodies to community groups, volunteer bureaux, and development agencies working at a local level.

CBI

The CBI is the representative body for UK businesses. Many of its members help the public sector to deliver public services, for example in the support services sector. The CBI believes a better platform for the public interest in service reform needs to be created - hence the development of the joint partnership between the NCC, the NCVO and the CBI in the Future Services Forum.

The booklet Future Services: Are you being served? is available here.

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