A shared journey: tackling democratic deficit and inequality through a more Enabling State

July 25, 2019

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A Carnegie UK Trust stocktake of progress toward a more engaged, responsive and empowering policy making in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland has identified Wales and Scotland as a ‘rising stars’ in outcomes –based government.

Today, the Carnegie UK Trust publishes a comprehensive review of participative, outcomes based, joined up policy making across the four jurisdictions of the UK. The review identifies which jurisdictions of the UK are leading the way and where more focus and resources are required.

The Enabling State: Where are we now? Review of policy developments 2013-2018 looks at progress in seven key policy areas that encapsulate the shift from the traditional Welfare State (which continues to serve many of us well) to an Enabling State. An Enabling State is one that seeks to address stubborn inequalities of outcome and gives people and communities more control over the public services they receive to improve their own wellbeing.

Key findings were:

  • The review affirmed that a paradigm shift from Welfare State to Enabling State was underway in all jurisdictions of the UK.
  • As might be expected with such radical system change, the shift has not always been linear and is still in progress.
  • Scotland and Wales are emerging as clear ‘Rising Stars’ when it comes to outcomes based policy making and are leading the way globally, thanks to ground breaking legislation that commits ministers to publish a set of shared national outcomes that will guide policy and decision making across the public sector. A key next step is to link budgets to these outcomes.
  • Wales has also been identified as a ‘Rising Star’ in preventative policy making due to the ground breaking Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act which promotes the principle of prevention in legislation and places a duty on all public bodies to take action in accordance with the sustainable development principle.
  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have made ‘steady progress’ on integration at the local level through Community Planning Partnerships and Public Service boards but challenges remain.
  • Scotland, Wales and England all have a stated ambition to introduce participatory budgeting but mainstreaming of this approach has not yet been realised.
  • There are clear ambitions for more preventative policy making in all four jurisdictions but transformational shifts toward prevention have not been realised – universal preventative services have been cut and short term budgeting persists.
  • There continues to be confusion about what co-production is and looks like in practice; no jurisdiction has successfully mainstreamed transformational co-production.
  • The scale of the budgetary and demand pressures facing public services are significant and ongoing and are, in many cases, hampering and undermining transformation. This is particularly evident at local authority level where these pressures are both strong reasons why service delivery must be transformed and why it is so difficult to achieve.

The Trust has identified 7 key areas where resources should be focused to help achieve transformational change and where there may be opportunity for cross-jurisdictional learning:

  1. A move toward mature outcomes based governance in Scotland and Wales by linking the budget processes to national outcomes, streamlining and standardising the accountability landscape, so that priorities are clear. The focus should be on delivering shared outcomes and specific programmes and services to understand their contribution.
  2. National and local governments should take a bold decision and focus on supporting transformation and dedicate resources to supporting experimentation, innovation, transformation and delivering differently at the local level.
  3. Local and national governments should explore how participatory budgeting can be mainstreamed.
  4. Focus on getting governance arrangements right so that partnerships have the necessary resources, independence and authority to lead the change.
  5. Build a better understanding of where the benefits of preventative spend accrue and the impact it has on population outcomes.
  6. Pave the way for transformative co-production by getting personalised care and Social Care direct payments right.
  7. Recognise and articulate the public value of community action and associational life in improving individual and collective wellbeing and identify how this value can be measured and prioritised when it comes to designing and delivering services and programmes.

Jennifer Wallace, Joint Interim CEO at the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

Post Brexit referendum analysis has shone a light on deep disengagement with politics and a significant proportion of the population that feel they cannot influence local and national decisions. We need a more Enabling State that is better at listening, responding to and empowering individual citizens and communities more than ever. Thanks to economic and demographic pressures though, it is also more challenging than ever to achieve. What is clear from this review is that despite the context good progress has been made in many areas. The challenge is now to move to transformational change and to take advantage of the opportunity for sharing learning.’

Caroline Slocock, Director of Civil Exchange and one of the report’s contributors, said:

‘This report highlights the opportunity for the incoming Prime Minister to create a truly Enabling State that would give more control to communities and individuals.   There’s increasing recognition of the value of this approach in England, including in the Government’s civil society strategy and in areas like health, and some good practice, but so much more could be achieved if government as a whole moved from its existing focus on individual services, silos and budgets to delivering better outcomes, from crisis intervention to prevention, from a top down approach to more local delivery and citizen participation, and from New Public Management and competition to collaborative leadership and commissioning.

Gráinne Walsh, Director at Stratagem, and one of the report’s contributors, said:

‘Commitment, focus and appropriate resources is central to the delivery of the change required to transform Northern Ireland’s devolved institutions and political culture to an enabling model signalled in the current draft Programme for Government and other transformative strategies.

The continuing absence of an Executive, Assembly and, critically, its associated scrutiny structures and processes, means that ambition has yet to be matched in practice across all public bodies and sections of government.

Further embedding of the culture of outcomes shaped by the wellbeing agenda needs to happen with or without the restoration of devolved institutions to ensure the alignment of government procurement, funding and audit systems to support outcomes focus for the wellbeing of citizens.

Auriol Miller, Director of the IWA, Wales and one of the report’s contributors, said:

‘The Institute of Welsh Affairs welcomes this wide ranging report. Despite the UK’s challenging public finances, it is encouraging to see evidence that Wales has made progress towards becoming an enabling state. There is still work to be done, however. Carnegie’s report underlines the fact that a focus on shared outcomes is the only way to go. We have got to approach policy issues from a range of perspectives to make sure that the results are the best they can possibly be for people in Wales.’




The seven interdependent policy shifts are:

  • From Target Setting to Outcomes
  • Top down to Bottom Up
  • From representation to participation
  • From Silos to Working Together/Integration
  • From crisis intervention to prevention
  • From doing-to to doing-with
  • From the state to community ownership and management

There are 2 associated reports:

The Enabling State: Where are we now? Review of policy developments 2013-2018 Summary Report

The Enabling State: Where are we now? Review of policy developments 2013-2018 Full Report