22 July 2008
PASC CALLS FOR NEW PUBLIC SERVICE GUARANTEES TO EMPOWER USERS OF PUBLIC SERVICES
The Public Administration Select Committee today publishes a report calling for the introduction of ‘Public Service Guarantees’ to empower public service users. Public Service Guarantees would specify the minimum standards of public services that people could expect to receive, across all publicly provided services.
The Committee says that setting out people’s entitlements is about giving service users real power to claim their rights to public services. It wants to see a ‘citizen’s handbook’ of Public Service Guarantees, which sets out clear and precise standards that people can expect from public services. This would complement measures the Government has recently announced to empower people and communities.
Examples of existing entitlements to public service provision occur in some standards and targets already. They include the guarantee that all patients should be able to see a GP within 48 hours, or the pledge that no-one should have to wait longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment from the point they are referred by their GP. This contrasts to the lack of similar service guarantees in, for example, social care provision―such as the right to respite care or maximum waiting times for assessment and provision of care packages. The Committee says that the process of setting down Public Service Guarantees would consolidate existing public service entitlements, while also indicating where new entitlements might be needed.
The Public Service Guarantees proposed by the Committee would outline minimum standards of public service provision. This would guarantee the minimum acceptable level of provision for all, across the country-helping to eliminate ‘postcode lotteries’ of service provision. The Committee also suggests that Guarantees should set out the responsibilities that people are expected to fulfil in return for claiming their rights or entitlements to public services. This approach has been followed by the Government in its draft NHS Constitution, which contains several obligations on patients such as keeping appointments and registering with a GP.
The germ of the idea for Public Service Guarantees dates back to the Citizen’s Charter introduced by John Major’s Government. The Committee’s Report looks at the legacy of the Citizen’s Charter. It concludes that the Charter’s guiding principle of putting the user at the heart of service provision should continue to direct the Government’s approach to public services, but now needs to be developed into a fully-fledged system of Public Service Guarantees.
Committee Chair Tony Wright MP said: “Public Service Guarantees would put real power in the hands of public service users. Everyone ought to know what standard of public service they should be getting. We want to see the Guarantees introduced so that people are aware of their entitlements to public services, and able to claim them.”
“The Government has recently proposed a new array of measures to empower people and communities. The introduction of Public Service Guarantees would be a powerful addition to this set of measures. It would send a clear signal that, in the provision of public services, the Government is genuinely committed to putting people first.”
1. For media inquiries and bids please contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer on 020 7219 0724. /
2. The Committee’s Report, From Citizen’s Charter to Public Service Guarantees: Entitlements to Public Services (Twelfth Report of Session 2007-08, HC 411), is the third of a short series of Reports on the Committee’s inquiry into Public Services: Putting People First. One of the key themes of this inquiry has been how standards for public services could be set in order to guarantee minimum levels of service provision.
3. The idea of Public Service Guarantees was first proposed by the Committee in its report on Choice, Voice and Public Services (Fourth Report of Session 2004-05, HC 49-I).
4. The full report will be available on the Committee’s website at
Committee Membership: Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Charles Walker (Con) (Broxbourne), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)
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