SCVO’s response to the independent budget review
Key issues for consideration
In the context of the remit and timescale of the Review and of the need for practical options, are there particular key issues which you consider should be addressed by the Panel for the purposes of its report?
In the immediate term: seed-fund demonstration projects that can upscale and replicate existing and promising alternative approaches provided by our sector
• We propose a series of pilot projects in local areas that takes proven alternative community-based services currently provided by the Third Sector, and supports an initiative to replicate the service to another area or upscale the service within the same area
• This should be a proactive initiative, taking existing alternative provision that is delivering an effective and efficient service for the users. It should not be a small-scale responsive fund as currently delivered through the Scottish Government’s enterprise and investment programmes.
• The benefit of the pilot approach is that the impact of the service will be felt immediately, while also helping us to learn what mode of scale or transfer will work best for the medium term.
In the short term: Scottish Government should set up a social partnership with civil society on developing an effective budget for 2011-14:
• The third sector is a key social partner that can bring experience and expertise from service delivery and advocacy that will help make the impact of the budget realistic and deliverable.
• We can learn from Ireland here where its pre-recession growth in the 1990 and 2000s benefited from a social partnership between government, business, civil society and unions.
• However, this requires clear and accessible information on Budget options, specifically on what changes and allocations are possible to be available publicly in advance.
• This would require a longer-term independent Budget function building on the work done by the Review group to act as an information point and to demystify the budget for social partners and the general public.
• A commitment from the Government to publish preliminary budget statements. These would present the Government’s proposed high-level expenditure allocations for each public spending period well in advance of the draft Budget Bill
• A public participation strategy will help with support for difficult choices and build public understanding of the potential and limitations inherent in the Scottish budget. This ought to make change easier to manage.
In the medium term: we need a priority review of the incentives for public authorities in addressing longer-term public service positions. The users of public services are simply too important to suffer from short-term planning and spending cuts. In order to address this damaging short-term approach:
• Recognise and emphasise the value of preventative services
• Ensure that local authorities in particular take into account how cutting a service in one area will impact on another area
• Highlight and reinforce the value of quality and trust alongside cost of services
• Ensure that local authorities set out clearly how they will assess the quality of services and fund external bodies
• Review the incentives within the Single Outcome Agreements and be clearer about the longer multi-year outcome cycles
• Ensure that there is adequate provision for equalities in Single Outcome Agreements
• Consider what changes to auditing arrangements may be required to allow for longer-term investments in service outcomes
It is clear to us that many of interventions described above will require very modest investment in the short term to generate considerably bigger impact in the medium to long-term.
Although, we do not underestimate the difficulty of winning the case for such investment at this time, the roles which voluntary organisations play as animators of community and as advocates and enablers are becoming ever more central to the future service mix.
It is our aspiration that, far from being a short term fix to address a dip in public finances, such an approach can precipitate a radical overhaul of public services in the future.
We believe that the third sector is the solution – it has the potential to emerge as a source of innovation that will re-design the delivery of Scottish public services. In short, support for the third sector will result in:
• More positive outcomes for the end user
• Significant cost savings for Scottish Government
• A healthier, fairer, greener and wealthier Scotland
Full report here http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/919/0102225.pdf