Archives for February 24th, 2000

HOUSING BENEFIT COMPLEXITY DRIVING OUTSOURCING

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 February, 2000

Local councils are responding to the difficulty of managing the complexities of Housing Benefit by putting the work out to contractors. The annual ITNET index shows that outsourcing of business processes by councils increased by 40% in 1999 and is now worth 143m pounds. Business processing has overtaken IT outsourcing which has increased marginally to 132m pounds.The National Housing Federation estimates that councils owe an estimated ?60 million in housing benefit to housing associations and it is calling on the government to take immediate action to remedy the problem. At the end of 1998 the DSS announced a programme to simplify and improve the delivery of housing benefit. This initiative was put on hold with the announcement of the Housing Green Paper, despite evidence that the administration of housing benefit was – in many areas – in chaos. In October 1999 Federation research showed that the average time taken to process a housing benefit claim was over three times longer than Government guidelines set out.The Department of Social Security is critical of the way in which councils manage Housing Benefit. It is estimated that some 900m pounds is lost annually through fraud and the Benefit Fraud inspection teams produce a steady stream of inspection reports highlighting weaknesses in council processes. The Institute of Economic Affairs has claimed that Housing Benefit is out of control.

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FLEXIBLE WORKING CAMPAIGN TAKES OFF

Headlines, PublicNet: 24 February, 2000

The campaign to change traditional working patterns and introduce flexibility and family friendly practices is starting to bite. Margaret Jay, Minister for Women, has been named as the campaign driver and the NHS has published a Flexible Working Toolkit that can be used by employers in the public and private sectors.Margaret Jay’s role will be to ensure that all employers are aware of the benefits of flexible, part time and home working. She has a particular responsibility to ensure that the 5 million public service workers have greater access to the various types of imaginative working practices that are already in operation across the sector.

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BENCHMARKING AND PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR

Abstracts, PublicNet: 24 February, 2000

Kouzmin A, Loffler E, Klages H, Korac-Kakabadse NThe International Journal of Public Sector Management, (UK), 1999 Vol 12 No 2. Start page: 119. No of pages: 24

Explores the difficulties associated with performance measurement in the public sector, and looks at benchmarking as a means of measuring levels of performance through the introduction of competition into a state system traditionally characterized by co-operation rather than competition. Describes the requirements of quality standard DIN ISO 9000-9004, internationally recognized as a benchmark for quality management, assessing its applicability to the public sector, and the virtue of citizens’ charters as official frameworks for assessing and awarding quality in the public sector. Looks at quality award competitions which raise a tension between competition and co-operation and tend to consider only good organizations, and therefore do not substitute for market competition. Questions whether benchmarking stimulates competition or fulfils the performance measurement needs of public organizations. Examines the progress from benchmarking to learning strategies within Europe, drawing a number of conclusions about expanding German and other European benchmarking experiences, which point towards benchmarking as an exceptional activity in many public sectors.

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