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Person-centred approach, accessible funding and digital have key roles to play in public service transformation

Communities secretary Eric Pickles and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander have welcomed publication of the independent Service Transformation Challenge Panel report ahead of next week's Autumn Statement.

'Bolder, Braver and Better: why we need local deals to save public services', a groundbreaking report into how local services can best respond to austerity, demographic change and increasing citizen expectations, calls for three fundamental changes:

  • that local and central government use the person-centred approach of the Troubled Families programme to design services for groups and individuals with multiple and complex needs
  • more easily accessible and more flexible funding for the up-front costs of transformation, but not more cash overall
  • radical improvements in how data and technology are used to provide smarter services

Overall the Panel made 20 specific recommendations in its report, five of which related to 'Information sharing and better, bolder use of smart data and digital technology':

  • Government should seek cross party support to introduce a draft Bill in the first session of the next parliament to enable information to be shared more effectively across public services to facilitate better outcomes and evaluation.
  • People, particularly those with multiple and complex needs, should in future presume that when accessing services their information will be shared with other relevant providers in order to improve service quality and outcomes; where appropriate, people who object to their information being shared should be able to opt-out of the presumption in favour of sharing.
  • Places should be more ambitious about how they approach information sharing, make better use of data and use digital technology to enable better outcomes.
  • Access to the £5bn transformation investment fund [recommended by compilation of existing disparate funding streams] should be conditional on the advancement of information sharing, technology and data analytics in local transformation plans.
  • Government should demonstrate alongside local public services how the use of data and digital technologies might be transformed: it should consult on creating basic 'local digital' standards to enable better use of data, compatibility of digital platforms and to drive 'open source' digital innovation; that consultation should also consider whether or not to establish a joint national-local capability to promote these standards and help build the necessary technical capacity in places to take advantage of them.

Welcoming the report Eric Pickles said, "The successful Troubled Families programme has shown how by bringing services together in a common sense way we can get better results and save money for the taxpayer too.

"This report now provides us with a blueprint as to how we can take this approach forward into other areas such as jobs, skills and early years, and as we are already doing with health and social care through the Better Care Fund."

Danny Alexander said that he was looking forward "to leading this agenda in the coming months." Adding, "Breaking down barriers between public services at a local level enables people to get a better, more coordinated service at less cost.

"This level of collaborative reform will be crucial to meeting the fiscal challenges of the next parliament in a fair way, that maintains high quality services. The Panel's report makes the case brilliantly."

The Panel, chaired by former and current local authority chief executives Sir Derek Myers and Pat Ritchie, was set up in April as part of the government's continued commitment to deliver better, more open public services centred around individuals and families' needs rather than working in traditional Whitehall silos.

"It is clear that the traditional approach to public services is not working," said panel co-chair, Derek Myers. "It is no use for individual organisations - be it council, police, health, Jobcentre Plus or another - to concern themselves with just one aspect of somebody's very complex problems. This has, tragically, not delivered better outcomes for a great many people and it has not reduced the need for costly support.

"We have called for the government and places to work together and create better interventions for those groups of people who contribute, for whatever reason, to the increasingly high demands on public services."

Panel co-chair Pat Ritchie added, "Public services should be built around a new person centred approach to help specific groups and individuals with multiple and complex needs.

"We recommend that agencies should be incentivised through place based budgeting or pooled budgets to work together more effectively to achieve this.

"We believe that the government should prepare the ground so that this approach can be put into practice in the next spending review."

Read the Challenge Panel Report, ' Bolder, Braver and Better: why we need local deals to save public services' in full here:

Read more about the work of the Challenge Panel here:

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