In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noted what I think are pretty interesting examples of markets developing in the public services space – one in social care comparison sites, another in crowdfunding platforms.
To these two examples there’s a third to add: platforms for e-petitions. A traipse through the tweets of the Generally Annoyed of Twitter quickly reveals the different petition platforms that people use, as follows:
- The government’s own e-petition site, which, as far as I understand, is the only one that potentially leads to an issue being debated in the House of Commons*
- 38 degrees
- Petition buzz
- Go Petition
- Live Petitions
- The Petition
I’ve been pretty selective in what e-petition sites are included above. For example, they don’t include US petition sites (such as MoveOn.org or Causes.com); nor does the list include businesses that offer petition platforms for public bodies, or the dedicated petition sites that local councils and others themselves have.
Of course, I haven’t just discovered that such “competition” exists, but I do find it fascinating there are so many e-petition platforms.
When it comes to an e-petition, I’d have thought the point would be to (a) get as many signatures as possible; and (b) have something happen as a result of the amount of support. To increase the number of e-petition platforms people can use is to potentially divide the number of signatures any one e-petition could get by the number of platforms. And to not use the e-petition platform which guarantees debate by elected politicians if an e-petition does get the required number of signatures seems bizarre.
So why are there so many e-petition platforms? Here are 3 reasons to start the discussion:
- Ego: someone or some organisation sets up a new e-petition platform because they think they can do it better (see also the amount of duplication generally in the voluntary and community sector)
- Money: someone or some organisation spots a business opportunity to make some cash, and so pursues it
- Conspiracy: why would any government promote their e-petition platform when people do such a good job and dividing and conquering themselves?
*This post isn’t intended to worry about the effectiveness of online petitions. I modestly direct you to some recent analysis on this to draw your own conclusion.
This is a blogpost from Meena Patel, Project Manager – Older Leaders for Change in Mental Health, at my workplace, the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi). It was written for some work we’re doing with the Mental Health Providers Forum.
How many people know that the ban on age discrimination in services came into effect in October 2012? This was the last piece of the jigsaw as far as I was concerned, as older people are now offered the same protection from discrimination in services, as others, on the grounds of their race, sex or disability. This can only be a good thing.
Evidence suggests that age discrimination exists, yet I am really struck by the lack of a debate and discussion about why this is, and more importantly, what can be done to address the isolation and exclusion that many older people with mental health problems experience.
The Equality Act 2010 (under which this ban sits) establishes a new legal duty on public bodies (including those that deliver services on behalf of public bodies to:
- Remove discrimination where it exists
- Advance equality of opportunity and
- Foster good relations in relation to the groups offered protection under the legislation, sometimes referred to as ‘protected characteristics’.
So, what does age equality mean? I have often heard people saying that it’s about treating everyone the same, irrespective of their situation, or, need, as that’s considered to be fair.
The other thing I hear is that services should be ‘age neutral’ – I hardly think advances in race, disability, or sex equality were made by taking a ‘neutral’ stance! Quite the opposite, in fact!
Equality does not mean treating everyone the same but is about ensuring that people are treated fairly and equitably according to their needs. So, what we are talking about here are:
Age sensitive, or age appropriate attitudes, behaviours and actions where there is a well-developed understanding of the needs of people at particular stages of their life (from ‘A Long Time Coming’)
Back in 2009, NDTi worked with the Department of Health in the South West on an age equality toolkit, to help local health and social communities to prepare for the ban. This pack contains useful tools and resources that can help to develop a shared understanding about age inequality/equality and an understanding of the current position with regard to services, through self-assessment and identifying priorities for action. (The toolkit can be accessed here.)
Two diverse localities from neighbouring regions of England, including statutory, voluntary/community organisations and older people with lived experience and their groups, took the opportunity to use the resource pack in order to understand the nature of the problem and to begin to undertake a self-assessment of local mental health service, using criteria contained in the pack. In addition to getting some really useful data and evidence about what works and doesn’t work so well for older people with mental health problems, the broader messages and conclusions from the work were as follows:
- At a local level, agencies need to work together with their communities including older people who use services and their carers to develop a shared, clear vision about what age equality in mental health services looks like;
- Staff and communities need to develop positive attitudes and mindsets so that older people with mental health problems can access a range of opportunities that promote wellbeing and inclusion;
- Services and supports need to become more personalised and focus on what older people need and aspire to, not their age;
- Older people need to experience better outcomes from and positive experiences of mental health services.
If service providers do all of the above, they’d be going above and beyond the requirements of equalities legislation, while at the same time leading the way in supporting older people with mental health problems to live well in their local communities.
Last week I blogged it’s no surprise there are 44 social care comparison sites, because:
- Social care is a significant “industry”
- Social care is a confusing “industry”
- There’s something to be made (be it money, referrals or reputation) from helping people navigate their way through all the complexities of social care
The main question I posed myself was whether social care comparison sites should be led by the visible hand of government or by the invisible hand of the market.
Here’s a fascinating development from Nesta in another growth area: crowdsourcing. They have created CrowdingIn, which supports people to help find the crowdsourcing platform most suited to their financial need.
In the sense of comparison sites, Nesta’s offering is of course only one (compared to the 44 in social care). My point here, though, is this: crowdsourcing has grown exceptionally quickly, with 34 different platforms people can access to crowdsource their funding, such that Nesta’s idea of a comparison site for crowdsourcing sites seems a very reasonable thing to offer.
To me it’s remarkable that so many businesses can exist so quickly on the back of a relatively recent phenomenon to the extent that a site of the second order (first order: crowdsourcing sites; second order: comparison of crowdsourcing sites) needs to exist.
Whether Nesta counts as a visible hand or an invisible hand is a different question altogether. What’s fascinating in the context of crowdsourcing is that the need for the hand exists.
(On crowdsourcing itself, here’s a nice blogpost from Carrie at FutureGov.)