I was lucky enough to present some of our current insight about trust and decision-making, especially at a local level, to a group of local government leaders earlier this month. In short, it suggests that there’s a growing public appetite for more engagement and involvement, as well as greater confidence in decision making at the local level, compared to central government.
But there are also still significant barriers to engagement faced by certain groups, including younger people. These include knowing how to get involved, which often is not obvious. (Other work we’ve done for government about this also identified that if people did get involved, they needed to believe that their actions would make a difference and their opinions would be listened to; councils still forget to tell people about the impact their involvement has had on the outcomes.)
I also looked at the area of digital service delivery. Work done by the IIPS – the Institute for Insight into Public Services, the think tank we jointly run with TNS-BMRB – shows that concerns still exist around the potential inequalities inherent in internet service delivery for older and less affluent groups, along with the need to consider the role of other digital channels including i-TV and mobile. People continue to prefer personal channels (phone and face to face) where personal information is concerned, and still expect to be offered choice. The mail is still preferred by a significant proportion of the population (around a third) for forms and payments. People who use services continue to expect multi-channel delivery, rather than being funnelled into one channel. And from a service provider’s perspective, getting the mix of user and channel right can represent a big cost saving.
And the research findings on choice and quality of service continue to be worth emphasising; all social groups, and ages, put quality above choice. And those who value choice more – typically in poorer social groups who don’t have as much choice generally – are also most worried about their ability to make the right choices.