The Christie Commission

The Commission on the Future Delivery on Public Services in Scotland has reported. In a time of major cuts in public services, the Commission’s reponse is an unreflective recitation of all the things that Scottish public services have been trying to do for the last few years anyway: partnership working, holistic responses, personalisation and early intervention. And, just because we have been doing them for years, we know what is wrong with all of them. Partnership working is all very well, but services need a division of labour to work effectively. The main impact of partnership has been to refocus attention on the boundaries – often issues of that affect the interfaces between services (such as the environment or community safety) rather than the things which most matter (like health, education and housing). The problem with everyone trying to be holistic is that is means that everyone is responsible for everything; services duplicate effort and spend time dancing on each other’s feet. One of the silliest proposals in the report is that public agencies should all have the power of welfare: so the local NHS trust will have legal power to build a railway? Be serious. Personalisation is administratively cumbersome and wasteful; it depends on there being choices and options, which are drying up; it individualises responses (like employment provision) which should be generalised. And early intervention, which has been tried repeatedly for nearly fifty years, is fuelled by a myth of integenerational continuity, something that doesn’t happen; depends on us having effective models of development, which we don’t have; and assumes that early gains are maintained, which they’re not. The fundamental problem is not continuity, but long-term insecurity; and the route to a secure social framework is not focused early intervention, but a continuing framework of access to the services and support people need.

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