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July 2, 2014

8 steps to a better state

It’s easy to forget that just because the financial crash and the ensuing austerity coincided with the Christie Commission’s call for radical reform of our public service, that the two were in no way a function of cause and effect. The role of the state was already under review and in urgent need of redefining itself. In a new report with Carnegie UK, the former head of Scotland’s civil service, Sir John Elvridge has put down some important markers for how the state might become more enabling. It’s an 8 step journey.



Carnegie UK

For the full report of A Route Map to an Enabling State click here

We know that people can and do change the way things happen on their own initiative. We also know that the state can provide a powerful helping hand,  often a hand that lets go rather than one which holds on.

In the eight steps below, we set out how we as a society can have more of a  good thing, without placing at risk or disadvantage those who cannot or do  not want to take more control of their own lives.

1              Getting out of the way

 The obvious first step, although not  necessarily the easiest, is for government to stop doing those things  which discourage or prevent individuals, families and communities  from exercising control over their own lives or contributing to their  shared wellbeing. One reason this is not straightforward is that  current practice usually stems from benign motives.

In the Republic of Ireland, the state is stepping back from traditional  approaches to care of people with mental health issues, dementia and  disabilities within institutional settings. The change is being led by  independent organisation Genio. Genio provides grants to help public  and third sector organisations to start delivering support outwith the  institutional setting. Training and support is available to professional  staff and Genio is co-ordinating research and evaluation to build an  evidence base for ‘what works’.

2              Giving permission

We need to create a stronger presumption in favour of the benefits of control and  engagement. This would have the double benefit of signalling  clearly to people that government wishes to encourage their  efforts to extend responsibility across more aspects of their lives  and to engage supportively with others.

Young people in Torfaen face a number of challenges. Levels of  deprivation in the area are higher than average  and there are particular  problems with homelessness and anti-social behaviour At Bron Afon  Housing Association, local young people are being given the opportunity  to make a difference to their local area. The Bron Afon Youth Forum is  supported by a Housing Association officer but it is the young members  who set the agenda. Concerned about peers who fall into homelessness,  the forum has been instrumental in securing a new transitional housing  unit designed to bridge the gap between the local homeless hostel and  rented accommodation. Alongside this, the forum is delivering a number  of activities designed to prevent homelessness including peer mentoring  and teaching skills such as cooking on a budget.

3              Helping people to help each other

 A further step is for  government to facilitate mutual support within and between  communities. Some of this can be as simple as helping to bring  people together to share experiences, some of it might involve  supporting charities or voluntary organisations to help foster  that mutual support.

Often the state first comes into contact with vulnerable people when  they fall into crisis. The Local Area Co-ordination approach in England  aims to connect members of the community together to prevent  vulnerable people from reaching that point. Local workers – known  as Local Area Coordinators – work within the community to build  networks of support. This might be as simple as combating isolation by  connecting people to others with a shared interest, or helping them to  get involved in a community activity. It could also involve working with a person’s family and friends so that they are able to support them.

Unlike traditional approaches the starting point is to identify with the  individual what they can do to improve their own wellbeing and achieve  their own aspirations with support from within their local community.

4              Giving people help to do more

 Facilitating mutual support is one form of building capacity in individuals, families  and communities, of both boosting their confidence in their  ability and adding to that ability. Government also has scope to boost capacity by transferring assets to communities or giving  them scope to acquire assets. Land and buildings are the most common forms of assets and our body of evidence about what is already happening includes many examples of the benefits  which communities can create through control of the land  around them or the houses in which they live.

In Scotland, the community ownership movement has been particularly successful. The Development Trusts Association Scotland estimates that  75,891 assets are owned by 2,718 community–controlled organisations  in Scotland with an estimated combined value of just over £1.45 bn. Half a million acres of land are now in community ownership in Scotland  resulting in repopulation, new homes, new businesses and a new sense of  confidence, energy and opportunity. The Scottish Land Fund has provided communities with the financial  means to buy land or assets and has helped provide equal access for all  communities to financial capital to purchase land.

5              Giving people rights

Legislative or financial frameworks which give communities the ability to acquire assets can  make a valuable contribution, reinforcing permission and encouragement with a degree of certainty which people can rely  upon in taking more ambitious steps.

In England and Wales, the Localism Act 2011 contains a number of  new rights and powers for communities. In Scotland, the forthcoming Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill offers a range of similar rights. Both contain provisions for a new Community Right to Buy allowing communities to register an interest in local assets of community value. In Scotland, this will be an extension of the Community Right to Buy, currently available to rural communities, under the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act. There will also be new provisions that will make it easier for communities to take on ownership of public assets. Both pieces of legislation also give communities new opportunities to get involved in shaping and running local services. In the Localism  Act, the Community Right to Challenge gives community groups the  right to express an interest in taking over the running of a local service  and, provisions for Neighbourhood Planning and Community Right to  Build give communities a greater say in the development of their local  area. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill includes proposals to allow communities to make a participation request to be more involved in the delivery of a local service. Communities will also be engaged more closely in identifying and prioritising national and local outcomes as a result of new duties that will be placed on Ministers and  Community Planning Partnerships.  

6              Making enabling the ‘new normal’

The presumption in favour of control and engagement should be built into new government policies, as a step on from removing older policy  blockages to those ways of living our lives. A routemap to an enabling state

As our population ages finding effective ways to support an active and independent third age is increasingly important. When the social enterprise  Participle set about designing a new service for older people their first port  of call was to speak to older people themselves and find out what mattered  to them. They told Participle that they wanted to stay socially connected and to contribute to the local community. The Circle Movement emerged.  An online membership scheme, Circle connects local older people through monthly social events and offers access to practical help. Members also have the opportunity to volunteer their own time and energy.The presumption in favour of control and engagement should be built into new government policies, as a step on from removing older policy blockages to those ways of living our lives.

7              Investing in disadvantaged communities

Not everyone who wishes to play a more active role in improving their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their local community has an equal opportunity to do so. Inequalities exist within and between communities in terms of access to financial resources and in softer resources such as education and social networks. To give everyone a fair chance to engage with a more enabling state additional support must be available for disadvantaged communities.

Hawkhill is a self-contained community in Alloa in Scotland. Problems of poor health, low levels of education, poverty and high levels of antisocial behaviour are major challenges. The Violence Reduction Unit and NHS Clackmannanshire are working together in a new way to support local people improve their confidence, skills and networks. The external staff bring vital connections to wider, social and professional networks, which are often missing in our most deprived areas, while the local community determines the agenda, leads activities and builds relationships with partners such as the local prison and supermarket

8              A focus on wellbeing 

A strategic focus on the environmental, social and economic outcomes that matter rather than process or input creates the conditions for a more holistic, flexible and preventative approach to public service delivery that is crucial to a more enabling approach.


The National Performance Framework (NPF) in Scotland sets out the Scottish Government’s Purpose, five Strategic Objectives and 16 National Outcomes. Scotland Performs is a dashboard of 50 national indicators that tracks performance against the NPF. The NPF and Scotland Performs were introduced in 2007 and marked a move away from more traditional approaches to public sector performance management. The abolition of government departments at the same time meant that national government was united in the pursuit of shared national outcomes. The NPF also provides a link between national and local government with each local council and public sector partners (the Community Planning  Partnership) working toward local Single Outcome Agreements. The Trust’s own international research looking at public service reform in  six small countries suggests that the outcomes approach supported by  the NPF has helped Scotland achieve a more holistic approach to public  service reform that was not evident in other small countries.