Saturday, 04 June 2011

Local monitoring of public services A BBC programme has exposed appalling maltreatment in a care home and led to arrests. It has also led to instant apologies from the public agency funded to monitor service quality and respond to complaints. The Care Quality Commission failed in precisely what it is there for; while the BBC went above and beyond the duty of a public service broadcaster, and not for the first time has done the work of another public agency. The current model doesn't seem brilliant. Might there be a different future for the public funding of regulation? Inspection and investigation in all kinds of public services requires expertise, of course, and that is not going to change. But as citizens become more media-empowered and can readily feed into the major media providers if necessary, is there a case for more local citizen teams to play a role alongside subject experts in monitoring publicly-funded local services? To some extent we do this already, for example in policing, but it's usually on a traditional committee-based model, attracting only a certain kind of commitment. I'm thinking of something a bit more likely to involve people from a range of backgrounds, something open and rewarding, like the Young Inspectors programme; and something that can really exploit the inexpensive transparency of local online channels. Just as we are expected as citizens to be available for jury service, should we not also expect to contribute directly to the maintenance of standards in our local services?

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