Home > NESF’s final reports focus on policy implementation.

Pike, Brigid (2010) NESF’s final reports focus on policy implementation. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 35, Autumn 2010 , p. 2.

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In March 2010, following a recommendation by the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (McCarthy report), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) was wound up. During its 16½ years the NESF, a government-appointed social partnership body, provided advice on economic and social policies, especially those intended to achieve greater equality and social inclusion in Irish society.  

Many of the NESF’s investigations influenced thinking with regard to policies to tackle the illicit drug problem, particularly in the areas of drug use prevention and rehabilitation. Relevant investigations included studies of early school leavers, lone parents, the long-term unemployed, prisoners, social housing, mental health, arts and cultural inclusion, and the policy implications of social capital. A number of these studies were reported on in Drugnet Ireland.
 
In recent years the NESF also began to explore issues around the implementation of policy and delivery of services, again with relevance to illicit drugs policy. With its diverse membership and experience of policy processes across institutional and departmental boundaries, the NESF was considered well positioned to identify innovations and reforms that would ensure that public services better met individual needs and were delivered more effectively.
 
In 2007 NESF Report No 34, Improving the delivery of quality services, put the citizen at the centre of public services reform, recommending a new ‘public value’ approach for delivering quality public services. This approach would ensure people’s needs are better met and assist in the implementation of the ‘lifecycle’ approach to the future development of public services. The links between better public service delivery and equality, social inclusion and the rural/urban dimensions were strongly emphasised. 
 
Published in late 2009 and early 2010, the NESF’s last three reports – on implementing the Home Care Package scheme (Report No 38); child literacy and social inclusion policies (Report No 39); and a discussion report on community participation in the delivery of public services – addressed the issues associated with policy implementation. This body of work highlighted how good policies have had mixed success when implemented, because of the way policy actors think about risk and accountability, how they frame their own role and the role of others involved in the process, and how organisational cultures of defensiveness militate against learning.
 
The reports on implementing home care and child literacy policies proposed a ‘policy implementation template’ comprising the following items:
 
1.   Strategy plans with agreed outcomes
2.   Delivery plans and delivery on the ground (including standards, competition, co-ordination of organisations and procedures and tailored universalism)
3.   Monitoring, evaluation and measurement of inputs, outputs and outcomes
4.   Links between outcomes and budget
5.   Good accountability and incentive structure
6.   Equity in provision
7.   Cultural elements (including values, beliefs and tacit assumptions, leadership, attitudes and quality of collaborative relationships)
 
The discussion report on local participatory governance provides a framework within which to understand the range of community participation/governance arrangements currently in operation. A separate article on page 4 discusses this report in the context of the ongoing national debate on how to strengthen local democracy.
 
The activities of the NESF have been absorbed by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), a constituent body of the statutorily-based National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO). To date, the function of the NESC has been to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy and the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners. The NESC is chaired by the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach and includes representatives of trade unions, employers, farmers' organisations, NGOs, key government departments and independent experts.
 
The NESF was the largest of the social partnership bodies. It comprised 60 social partners, representing employer, trade union and farming organisations, the community and voluntary sectors, members of the Dáil and Seanad, representatives of central and local government, and independent experts. In the final newsletter of the NESF (February 2010), NESF Chairperson, Dr Maureen Gaffney, asserted that a unique feature of the NESF was its ‘strongly independent, consultative and participative ethos. It was open in a routine way to other actors in the system and to those working directly with people experiencing poverty and social exclusion. This way of working facilitated the early identification of emerging trends in social exclusion, and of the glitches and failures in policies designed to address them.’

 For further information on the NESF and the NESC, and access to the reports, visit www.nesdo.ie

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 35, Autumn 2010
Date:2010
Page Range:p. 2
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 35, Autumn 2010
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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