By David Bicknell
The Government has detailed how it is developing and implementing Rights to Provide to “empower front line staff across the public sector to take over the services they deliver,” possibly through the creation of new mutuals.
The Government said it has identified local authorities’ services, fire services, probation and adult social care as some of the areas for developing new mutuals. This it says, will be backed by enhanced support available to staff through the Mutuals Information Service and the Mutuals Support Programme.
In announcing an updated discussion paper David Cameron said increasing parental choice in schools, extending personal budgets so people can choose how they spend money on services and increasing the transparency of public service performance and user satisfaction are all part of the next steps to improve public services by opening them up. The paper updates the Open Public Service (OPS) White Paper published last summer.
Launching the new paper, Cameron said: “Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big-state structures we inherited from the last government. We are putting people in control, giving them the choices and chances that they get in almost every other area of life. There is still a way to go and this kind of change will not happen overnight. But no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up.”
Specifically on mutuals, the paper says:
“Alongside the focus on digital delivery, and as a core part of work to reform the Civil Service, Government Commercial Teams are working with individual departments to identify where new commercial models would accelerate reform and improve services. In some cases, this may involve high-quality in-house delivery; in other cases outsourcing may offer best value.
“We are particularly interested in the potential offered by mutual models, including mutual joint ventures, that give employees much greater say in the way their organisation is run, for example the model being considered for MyCSP.
“To ensure that the benefits of mutualisation are available across the wider public sector, we are giving public sector staff new Rights to Provide – empowering employees to form public service mutuals to bid or request to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector staff to become their own boss,freeing up untapped entrepreneurial and innovative drive.
“Public service mutuals are now well established in community healthcare, with thousands of public servants working in new mutuals with contracts worth almost £1 billion. We have extended these rights to new areas, including adult social care and NHS trusts, and we are looking to go further, in areas such as youth services, probation services, children’s centres, and fire and rescue services.
“We have been actively working with fledgling mutuals on the ground, for example through the Mystery Shopper service and the Mutuals Information Service; and we are supporting some of the most promising and innovative mutuals to reach the point of investment readiness, through the Mutuals Support Programme – a fund of more than £10 million to contract for support in the form of business and professional services to groups of staff who want to form mutuals or existing mutual organisations in the public sector. A steady stream of applications is developing into a pipeline of projects.”
The Government said all its departments will put in place a Right to Provide to empower employees in public services for which they are responsible to s pin out to create new public service mutuals. Public sector workers who want to formmutuals or co-operatives to deliver public services will be given a Right to Provide.
The Government will look to reflect these commitments in departmental business plans where appropriate.
Information from the Mutuals Information Service will inform departmental policy development, the new paper says.
It points out that “the Department of Health’s Right to Request is near completion, with 40 services now operating as independent social enterprises and further projects to go live by April 2012. The Right to Provide has generated interest across NHS trusts, foundation trusts and adult social care.
“The Department of Health is already exploring opportunities to support social enterprises and mutuals spinning out from the NHS, social care and adult social work. The status of other government departments is as follows:
• Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Further Education – now starting
• Home Office – not yet started
• Ministry of Justice – now starting; commitments will be reflected in the Department’s business plan
• Department for Work and Pensions – not yet started
•Department for Education Youth Services, and Social Work – now starting
• Department for Education Children’s Centres – not yet started.