The alternative to ring-fencing

Age UK has called for the social care budget to be ring-fenced like the money for the NHS has been. They claim that social care has an effect on the NHS and cutting its budget will drive demand into the NHS. They are no doubt right, but they are using a classic silo-thinking trick. They are using system wide arguments to protect their patch.

“The system will suffer”, they cry, “help our bit of it, but not theirs.”

Every service, region, council, lobby group and association will be calling on the government to treat them as a special case in the near future and from their point of view they are right. The important thing is to take a different point of view. When genuinely looked at as a system, public services need to do two things

  1. See themselves as part of the whole system that is the economic and social complex of the country.
  2. While bearing that in mind, look to their own systems of work to see how they can improve and save money.

I believe that focusing on purpose (what they are there to do) and improving the service they give is the best way to save money. It is not a direct route but doing what the service user needs, with no waste, errors or rework, as quickly as possible must be the cheapest way to deliver every service.

Most public services are nowhere near that state. So they need to look to themselves to solve their problems.

The only problem will be is if either the service managers don’t see this or the cuts come so fast that they can’t implement it. Though implementation can be surprisingly quick when people put their mind to it.



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