The traditional model of delivering public services is based on assumptions and processes from the turn of the century. Society was less complex, less diverse, and a lot less connected.
Greater Manchester, in particular, now faces unprecedented challenges of increasing demand and falling budgets. If we don’t come together to radically reform our public services, we will fail our residents.
The complexity of the challenges we face in our city-region mean we can’t respond with the same thinking and ways of working as before. We also can’t achieve the goals set out in our Greater Manchester strategy unless we work closer with residents and stop passing them around a fractured system of expensive and reactive public services.
So what’s our plan?
We see public services in the widest possible scope, harnessing the combined strengths of our formal service; the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; local businesses; and our communities’ assets.
Instead of a drive towards more institutions and outsourcing, we’re integrating our public services at a local level. This means organising our resources around neighbourhoods of 30,000-50,000 residents, rather than around policy areas.
Our new public service delivery model sees staff from a range of public services working together at a neighbourhood level. Our initial pilots show greater information sharing between agencies, with pooled budgets promoting more effective spending.
By allocating resources around the actual, specific needs of a place and its people, we will be able to free up more of the frontline, spend our budgets more flexibly and effectively, and deliver life-changing outcomes for our residents.
This new way of working breaks down the silos between public services, promoting collaboration and prevention, instead of uncoordinated, overlapping services working in isolation to patch people up and pick up the pieces repeatedly.
This integrated, place-based working is key to supporting residents to lead happier and healthier lives, improving community resilience and saving public money otherwise spent propping up a broken system.
As part of the Wigan deal, we have developed seven fully integrated service delivery areas with our partners and communities.
Local police officers, drug and alcohol workers, housing staff, doctors, local community groups, veterans’ groups, hospital staff, children and adult social workers, and job centre staff all work together to share information about residents who need support. Through a trusted keyworker they build a different relationship and support everyone to achieve the life they deserve.
This approach to public service delivery puts the needs of people and places at its heart – and will be a big test for Greater Manchester and devolution.
This has not come out of the blue. We have been on a long journey of reform and integration throughout our history of collaboration and more recent devolution deals. We have a more advanced devolution deal here than anywhere else in the country. This has given us the unique chance to do things differently and explore wholesale reform.
We have spent time understanding how public services are experienced from the person’s view, how the system works as a whole and what gets in the way. We have tested, adapted and built our evidence base, putting our common purpose – the needs of local people – above individual organisational interests.
Our operating model has been developed from the ground up, working with frontline teams and being part of local conversations. In addition, we have undertaken honest self-assessments identifying common themes across all public service, health and care organisations in each of the ten localities, and the whole of Greater Manchester.
This approach enables each of the 10 districts to deliver our mayor Andy Burnham’s reform priorities of school readiness, life readiness, aging well, and homelessness, working alongside local communities and investing in grassroots community projects.
We have a brilliant opportunity for all public services to come together with the community and voluntary sector to challenge ourselves to go further and faster in rolling out integrated place-based working.
This hyper-localised support, based on people’s actual experiences and needs in all areas of their lives, is more effective in delivering lasting change.
The new model is truly preventative, proactive, and person-centred. And it’s been described by our Mr Burnham as a “seismic change” as radical as the creation of the welfare state and NHS.
I couldn’t agree more. Like the NHS, this reform will improve people’s lives now and for generations to come.
Donna Hall, chief executive, Wigan MBC; accountable officer, Wigan CCG; and lead officer for public service reform, Greater Manchester Combined Authority