Joined-up services promise savings and better social outcomes by breaking down silos and becoming more responsive to citizens. But despite the promises, attempts to implement joined-up approaches have had mixed success so far in Australia.
Drawing on the lessons of attempts to implement joined-up services in the United Kingdom, the UK-based Institute for Government has published a report which provides some insights into what commonly goes wrong with joining up and guidelines about how to deal with problems. It offers several case studies of successful British programs, including the Social Exclusion Unit and community budgeting.
Agreeing on outcomes, improving relationships and engaging stakeholders in the design process are among the recommendations made to help overcome some of the common problems these initiatives face. Some of the insights may need to be adapted to fit Australian conditions, given local government plays a bigger role in the UK in the delivery of services.
It also highlights some of the thorny issues that remain to be tackled on how to practically take this agenda forward and embed new, collaborative models of working on a wide scale.
According to the think tank, the five “perennial challenges” that hinder joint working and collaboration in public services are:
- Short-term policy and funding cycles can restrict the ability of local actors to invest in the long-term partnerships needed to meet local and citizen needs.
- Misaligned geographies and the patchwork of commissioning, funding and regulatory processes can make it difficult for local actors to design services around a whole person.
- Cultural differences between professions and organisations can discourage collaboration on the ground.
- Barriers to data sharing can make joint working between distinct teams or organisations practically difficult.
- Limited sharing of ‘what works’ in different circumstances can mean that lessons from effective models and practices are rarely built on.
The institute makes ten recommendations for improving the delivery of joined-up services:
- Using multi-disciplinary teams can focus attention on complex issues.
- Agreeing on clear, outcomes-focused goals can help front-line organisations prioritise resources effectively.
- Using evidence can build consensus and help to draw in resources from a range of organisations.
- Building on existing programmes and structures can enhance existing good practice and partnerships on the ground.
- Giving local areas greater flexibility can help local actors form the partnerships needed to deliver cross-cutting outcomes.
- Balancing this with some central government support can provide the additional resources and political momentum needed to get an initiative off the ground.
- Building the desire for joined up services into the aims and processes of commissioning can incentivise organisations to collaborate.
- Engaging a broad range of stakeholders throughout the design process can help to build buy-in and commitment to partnership working.
- Sharing learning and experiences widely can help to ensure that effective models are built on.
- Physically bringing organisations together can help to overcome entrenched cultural differences and data-sharing challenges.