Making a point, ineffectively

Goodness knows there are many legitimate points to be made about the quality and nature of public policy at the moment.

Nevertheless, I feel it is incumbent on those who want to see positive change to public policy to do so in ways that are effective. I say this because I’ve seen a couple of examples recently that were, in my view, pretty ineffective.

The first is on a topic I agree isn’t right: the limbo in which the Access to Elected Fund finds itself. A source of funding that makes it more accessible for disabled people to stand for elected office is absolutely needed, and the ongoing uncertainty about whether it will be continued isn’t right. This said, there are better ways to make the point than to (a) call it


or (b) propose making a formal complaint to the UN about the breach.

The second is on a topic I am personally very supportive of (and indeed am part of the team working on it): Personal Health Budgets. In response to the scaling up of Personal Health Budgets from the current 4,700 to 100,000 the criticism is that this:

does not fit well with our politics of austerity.

It’s equally possible to say that the scaling up of Personal Health Budgets doesn’t fit well with England’s chances at Euro 2016, with Donald Trump’s continued presence in the Republican Party’s presidential nomination race or with the mystifying popularity of Strictly Come Dancing.

The point being that it’s an odd and wrong premise, and so a criticism that doesn’t make any sense.

(To expand: if the politics of austerity is wrong (the inferred conclusion) then Personal Health Budgets shouldn’t fit well; if the politic of austerity is right, then Personal Health Budgets are a means by which to get better outcomes, most often for less, from a system that doesn’t currently work as well as it should. Either way, the premise is a false one.)

It’s absolutely right that people are critical of public policy. The quality of debate and policy, though, only improves if interventions are effective, by which I broadly mean:

  • They make sense
  • They are in ways that are more likely to make the people who could effect the change engage with the issue
  • They perhaps offer options as to how to address the focus of their criticism
  • They maybe get involved in working towards a solution
  • They fundamentally recognise that it’s people on the other end of their criticisms – and so that it’s only by understanding how people change that decisions and public policy change.

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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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