Government backs a ‘right to choose’ for service users

The government wants to legislate to give citizens a right to choose their public service provider, it said last month in an update to its Open Public Services white paper.

By Joshua.Chambers

12 Apr 2012

Draft clauses for the proposed legislation state that the government intends to “establish a right for persons for whom a relevant public service is provided to have a choice of provision”. An alternative wording suggests it would be “a choice (whether of providers or of ways in which the service can be provided).”

However, Institute for Government (IfG) programme director Tom Gash has suggested the plan will be “unworkable” and could end up creating unnecessary bureaucracy. Gash said the proposal “is likely to prove unworkable in practice. To make the right to choose legally enforceable, government would need to specify precisely the degree and type of choice that should be provided.”

“Specifying what constitutes fair choice is likely to be time-consuming and may end up producing exactly the kind of bureaucracy that the government is seeking to avoid,” he added.

The update paper sets out departments’ progress on agendas such as outsourcing, mutualisation and payment-by-results, and says that departments will have to create “choice frameworks” from June 2012 to outline and raise awareness of the choices available in the health service, adult social care, further education, schools and early-years childcare provision. Further, “choice champions” are to be established to promote choice in public services and “provide independent scrutiny and challenge to providers and commissioners”.

The government will also “examine whether providers have a sufficient right to appeal to an independent figure or organisation when they feel that they have been unfairly excluded from a commissioning process, and bring forward new proposals for consultation”.

From this spring, departments must start to report on progress against the white paper’s priorities in their business plans. A consultation on the proposed ‘right to choose’ will remain open until 22 June 2012.

See opinion articles by Tom Gash and the CBI’s John Cridland, plus the CSW Editorial.

Read the most recent articles written by Joshua.Chambers - Interview: Alison Munro


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