Headlines: October 27th, 1999

Mystery shoppers, working for the Cabinet Office, who walked into offices of local councils and registrars of births, marriages and deaths, the Benefits Agency, and Job Centres found no signs of joined up government. They also found that the quality of service was generally low. These depressing findings have led to an Action Plan to deliver seamless, simplified and more helpful services.Every year 2.5m households change their address and because there is no joined up working, these changes generate 20m transactions. Currently, e-mail cannot be used to notify a change. The Action Plan envisages, in the long term, that only one notification of a change will be necessary and this will trigger an advice to all other public bodies. The short term target is to set up a Government Gateway by December 1999 and launch a pilot notification system using two departments. This will be extended to a national pilot by 2001.

Opening hours of public offices have not kept pace with the private sector and strategies are being devised for 24 hour by 7 day services. Research is in progress to find out which services the public want open all hours and there is a target to achieve 24 by 7 opening by the end of 2001 for the top five services.

The Action Plan also contains targets for improving information about services relating to bereavement, long term care at home and retirement.