Public service reform

By Simon Barrow
January 19, 2008

Britain's public services are continually under pressure. How do we begin to shift the agenda in a more positive direction?

That's the issue picked up in Savitri Hensman's latest column:

Incidentally, Savi's material will be appearing in a front-of-page regular column soon. She's a frequent contributor to Ekklesia anyway, and we are very grateful for her thoughtful input. In the meantime, past articles can be mined here:

The latest article has some prescient things to say about the role of faith groups, which seem worth highlighting:

Faith organisations may need to tread carefully if they are to be credible, since sometimes criticism of the public sector can seem to be based on self-interest, a bid to take over provision of public services or a lament for a mythical golden age of theocracy when political leaders did what religious leaders told them to do and everything was harmonious.

However faith communities, and networks where ethical issues are discussed, can open up space where those damaged by rules and policies which institutionalise inhospitality and ungraciousness can be heard. This includes staff required to put such rules and policies into practice. Perspectives different from the propaganda that justifies harsh measures can thus be shared more widely and debate encouraged.

Deeper study of the reasons why so many experience insecurity and preventable hardship in a world of abundant wealth can be carried out, and acts of solidarity undertaken.

Secular institutions like trade unions can also create space for staff to talk about the spiritual dimensions of their work, how it feels to be expected to act in certain ways towards vulnerable people.

Sometimes protests over pay and conditions may mask a deeper uneasiness: low wages and grotty surroundings may seem like a dismissal of the worth of clients and staff alike. This may seem ‘airy-fairy’ compared with the language of pay rates, yet it is important to recognise that many people seek jobs in public service largely because they feel drawn to that type of work, and some now feel their capacity to do good is being undermined.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.