So, now we have the detail of the new “entitlements” approach – well, sort of. The government have published ‘Building Britain’s Future’ but frankly we’re not much more enlightened than we were before. The document covers a very wide range of topics besides entitlements and public service reform, which were strongly trailed as its central message. It really does just need a Red Rose on the front and it would look very much like an election manifesto, the territroy it covers is so wide.
So what about ‘entitlements’? We do now know that these will not be legally enforceable ‘entitlements’ – the government are so emphatic about that it is repeated in several places.
We do know that they are mainly going to be individuals’, rather than group or community, rights. This of course weakens them considerably, for reasons I spelt out in the previous post.
We do know they seem to be going to cover a very limited range of services – health, education, criminal justice and maybe some other local government services.
We do know that some of them will be enforceable via ombudsmen. Whilst this is useful for some things, it certainly isn’t much use for time-critical services.
We do know some will carry a right to go elsewhere if a public service can’t, or won’t, deliver on time. But we don’t know how this right will be enforced.
And the standards, such as they are, will either be set by the government (standards = targets by another name) or by ‘front-line professionals’.
We also know some services will be more ‘personalised’, but again it is unclear how personalised (and therefore non-standard) entitlements might be enforced.
And we do know it will be coupled with ‘more freedom to the front-line’, which means more diversity and therefore more difficulty for individuals in enforcing standards.
So it still looks very much like the first blush of the Citizens’ Charter, only less comprehensive and even less thought through, if that is possible.