In December 2011, central government selected Greater Essex as one of four national Whole Place Community Budget (WECB) pilot areas. Since then, local and national partners have worked to deliver a set of proposals capable of delivering better, more cost-effective public services.
Over the course of the pilot, Greater Essex partners have developed and progressed proposals for system change. Our projects support key tenets of the coalition government’s vision for Open Public Services and a local commitment to the principles of choice; decentralisation; diversity of provision; fairness, and accountability.
Taken together, we expect these initial proposals could deliver £414 million in net benefits (£127 million in cashable savings to local and national public service partners and £287 million in economic, fiscal and social benefits). We anticipate that our proposals will also accelerate the delivery of 60,000 new jobs, 25,500 new homes and up to £1 billion in investment in our physical and service infrastructure.
Essex partners view the submission of the Operational Plan and its accompanying business cases as the start of our work to move our propositions from the conceptual to the practical. We want, with government, to deliver these ambitious plans – and then ensure the hard-won momentum gained thus far can be used to push our desire for wider systemic change.
Whilst the proposals in this Operational Plan deal with less than a third of the public sector expenditure in Essex, they prove the concept that partners can deliver significant savings and improved outcomes by looking beyond organisational boundaries and focusing instead on the whole system of public services. Our propositions will deliver better value for taxpayers and better outcomes for citizens. With a wider focus, Essex partners are confident that we can achieve still more.
Supporting this commitment to take the lessons of the last nine months further, we will look to deliver wider reforms based on the complementary themes of:
- strengthening communities – enhancing community resilience, redefining the relationship between citizens and the public services and reducing service demand;
- early intervention and prevention – tackling social problems before they become intractable and costly; and
- integration – using resources held by different partners to meet shared objectives and drive new behaviours.
Underpinning all our work is the recognition that prosperity and a growing economy are vital in improving outcomes and reducing demands for public services. We are therefore also looking to promote:
- Sustainable economic growth – allowing local partners to drive economic recovery, through the development of an Essex ‘Deal for Growth’.
Our propositions for public service reform are compelling. Through a process of deep collaboration across local and national public services, we have developed a suite of proposals capable of delivering better outcomes and reduced costs. Across the WECB programme we are submitting five specific proposals to central government. They are:
1) Integrated Commissioning - our proposed approach to achieving better health and social care services will integrate commissioning across a number of agencies. A common commissioning platform will create clarity of focus on patient pathways. It will support the commissioning of integrated and streamlined services at a scale that allows us to achieve the best possible set of patient and service user outcomes as well as delivering financial benefits.
Our proposal recognises the importance of wider determinants of public health and wellbeing. Whilst our Community Budget proposal would look to expand the range of services operating on this model, our initial focus looks to include all or part of NHS Clinical Commissioning Group responsibilities; adult social care; children’s services (excluding education); public health; housing; and voluntary and community services.
This approach will allow local flexibility within a strategically consistent model, supporting commissioning across Essex, at the geography of individual Clinical Commissioning Groups or hyper-locally within individual communities dependent upon the service required.
2) Skills for Growth – we need to ensure our proposals for public service reform look not only to the here and now but also place Essex in the best possible position to benefit from future economic growth.
We will deliver a better skills system; one that supports learners into real, sustainable employment whilst also ensuring business benefits from ready access to a pool of skilled employees - increasing the value of our economy and reducing welfare dependency.
Our offer, an integrated approach that brings employers and local authorities together to shape provision locally, will see a change in the way that employers can influence and direct the way the vocational skills system works – helping them better recruit and retain employees with the skills and attitudes to help make them successful. It will also give improved direction and focus to publicly funded skills and employment provision - prioritising local priority sectors and growth opportunities whilst also providing clear choices and opportunities for young people as part of a simplified pathway from education to work
3) Reduced Reoffending - our proposition takes a tripartite approach to reducing reoffending. We will focus on offenders and their families; reduce current demand through preventative work with offenders; and reduce future demand by focussing preventative work on offenders’ children. To do this, a multi-agency approach will be developed that systematically brings together criminal justice and non-criminal justice agencies to reduce current and future demand on public services.
By realigning commissioning and funding strategies we want to shift to a more preventative, and personalised offender management service. Our proposal will build integrated pathways to tackle the factors which increase the likelihood of reoffending and change attitudes and behaviours. Reducing reoffending, and enabling offenders to change their behaviour and become productive members of society will, over time, eliminate many of these high costs from the system, whilst delivering wider societal benefits.
4) Reduced Domestic Abuse – by bringing together organisations across the criminal justice system and working alongside health, housing and social services, we will deliver a multi-agency approach to identifying and assisting victims of domestic abuse earlier.
Tackling the issue before behaviour escalates and becomes more severe can make the system easier and less fearful to navigate. We propose a range of preventative activity, working with schools and young people to understand healthy relationships and with a perpetrator strategy to tackle the issues, behaviours and beliefs which underpin their behaviour.
We will build on the Essex Police Central Referral Unit due to be launched later this year - in the first half of 2013 the unit will start to develop into a multi-agency hub to combat domestic abuse - as we move to 2014 the intention is that we will have a fully operational centre with partners delivering a whole systems approach.
5) Families with Complex Needs - working holistically with families with multiple difficulties, our proposal will help families become more self-reliant and break the inter-generational cycle of dependency and deprivation.
Initially, eight multi-agency / multi-disciplinary teams will work with over 1000 families a year. This approach, which will bring together professionals from children’s and adult services, health and district councils, will be scaled up further in 2014 and, potentially, in 2015 dependent upon local needs and proven impact.
Our approach will see a family worker work intensively with each family for either a focused 3-month period or, if necessary, up to a year. Enabling families to navigate complex systems and to find solutions which support their needs, will, over time, reduce the need for expensive reactive and specialist services including drug/alcohol abuse, family conflict, criminal justice and social care involvement both within the family and across future generations.
Our proposal is a long-term culture change programme which has the potential to improve health, attainment, learning, community participation and employment throughout the family, whilst at the same time both making a tangible difference for the families’ immediate community and reducing costs to wider society.
As well as developing these proposals, partners have renewed their commitment to delivering sustainable economic growth. Unemployment, low skills and poverty blighting the lives of some of those who rely most on the public services – combatting these seemingly intractable issues can help residents make the most of the chances available to them.
But tackling these issues requires Essex partners and national government to create the conditions that support local growth. Partners across Greater Essex are therefore keen to broker a Deal for Growth with central government. We want to access levers that will help accelerate economic growth in Greater Essex, and which have, so far, been devolved only to core-cities. We have therefore set out a proposed ‘Deal for Growth’ based on key local economic priorities – infrastructure and skills – and invite HM Government to enter into dialogue on how this can be taken forward.
Our direct collaboration with Whitehall has allowed local partners to advance a more compelling set of propositions than if we, as local partners, had acted alone. However, our proposals and principles can only get us so far. The Whole Essex Community Budget calls for a new way of working for many organisations – we need central government to match our ambitions in this regard. To help change public services for the better we have made a number of asks of central government departments – some are critical to the successful delivery of our plans, others would simply ease their development and implementation. Over the last nine months, we have demonstrated how agile organisations can propose innovative solutions to the public policy challenges our communities face. We would urge central government to keep with us.
Clearly, this submission is only the start of the journey toward a better, more affordable local public sector. This Operational Plan also outlines how we intend to move from ideas, through implementation to operationalising our proposals as business as usual activity. This has implications for local partners as we embed projects but also for Whitehall, both as it assesses the viability of our propositions and as it looks to pilot areas for guidance as to how best to share the learning with the wider public sector.
We are convinced Whole Essex Community Budget demonstrates how locally-led innovation has the capacity to improve public services and reduce cost. What follows sets out just how we will deliver our conviction.