Headlines: January 31st, 2003

The Audit Commission has found that local councils, NHS trusts and the police have a long way to go to meet the modernizing agenda demand for involving service users. User involvement is crucial because people benefit most from public services that are based on a real understanding of their needs. The Commission also found outstanding examples where successful involvement brought real benefits to users.The new Management Paper from the Commission ‘Connecting with Users and Citizens’ compares service providers with effective involvement processes with those that were less successful. The comparison reveals a cultural divide. The successful embed user involvement across the organization and seek commitment from all staff. The less successful believe that people do not want to be consulted, because they are not interested. They also feel that it is not really necessary to consult. The reasons they quote for low level of user involvement include lack of time, resources and staff expertise.

Case studies in the Paper demonstrate the different ways involvement has been achieved. New technology is increasingly being used to connect with users. A study describes how a consultation was built around the Internet, and for those without access at home, facilities were made available in libraries. For 10 days consultation text was displayed with questions for the group to complete. Email reminders about the closing date were sent. As result of the process the e-Government strategy of the service provider was changed. 90% of respondents would take part in a similar exercise again.

Link: http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/Products/AC-REPORT/F1B75570-9AA7-469