Today saw the publication of the RSA report on whole person recovery.
It is a great piece of work and also timely. I see it as a signpost to the Big Society public services of the future. It takes the idea of personalisation to a new level. Based on deliberation involving 200 problem users, the report argues that capacity of individuals with drug and alcohol issues to cope with addiction, to enter treatment and to recover reflects their own social resources comprising individual, social and community capital. Services need to focus on the key factors which enable people to take control of their lives. One interesting finding, for example, is that service users can be significantly helped by being involved in civic life and feeling that they are valued as citizens.
Equally important is the way the report encourages us to define public services not simply in terms of those things provided by the state but also wider social attitudes and support. As austerity bites it is important that we reconceptualise public services by including the vital networks of family, friends and the wider community. By blurring the boundary between the state and civil society we can not only understand services more fully but also see the ways in which well designed public services encourage and support, rather than crowd out, the efforts of families and communities to help vulnerable people.
The report offers a new way of thinking but also continuity with our past:
- The focus is on invention, not simply policy making. The next stage of the project will seek to implement and test the ideas developed in the first phase.
- The emphasis on understanding human capability and how to enhance it: made even more powerful by considering this from the perspective of a vulnerable and stigmatised group
- The project itself emerged from the excellent work of our 2007 Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy.
The report makes concrete the concept at the heart of our recent 2020 Public Services Commission – that we should judge public services by their social productivity: the extent to which they help people help themselves, and each other.