Episode 4: Caroline Gardner on supporting inclusive public services — Tea & Talk Podcast
Please note transcriptions are automatically generated so may feature errors.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the RSEs tea and talk podcast series a program inspired by the coffee houses of the 18th century, where great thinkers would come together to discuss ideas and matters of the day.
I’m Rebekah Widdowfield and I’m chief executive of the Royal society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s national Academy. Our mission is to advance learning and make knowledge useful. And as part of that in this series, I’ll be speaking with some of Scotland’s leading authorities on the impact of COVID-19. The conversations are with Fellows and with members of the RSEs post-Covid futures commission, who are keen to share their expertise and experience.
You can find out more about this work at rsecovidcommission.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @news_RSE.
Today I’m speaking with Caroline Gardner about how we can use learning from the COVID 19 pandemic to support inclusive public services and innovative thinking.
Caroline was the auditor general for Scotland between 2012 and 2020 during a period of significant growth in Scotland’s financial powers. And has the passion for evidence led change to deliver better outcomes. Caroline is a member of the RSEs Post-COVID Futures Commission and chairs its working group on inclusive public service. She also sits on the expert panel supporting the independent review of adult social care by Scottish government. So I’m really looking forward to her insights on how we use the experience of COVID to support positive change.
Caroline, you’ve often highlighted through your previous work how innovation is much needed, but is often under supported, when we look at the public sector, and maybe particularly in the NHS and social care. Based on your experience over the years, how do you think we best foster innovative thinking within these sectors and across public services, more widely?
Caroline Gardner: [00:01:55] I think it’s a really important question Rebekah; we all know how much health and care is struggling, not just because of the impact of the pandemic at the moment, but in the years running up to this year, increasing pressure on Accident & Emergency on social capital for older people.
And yes, at the same time as Auditor General at Audit Scotland we saw great examples of people working differently; finding ways, not just to make better use of the resources they have, but really to support better the people they were there to serve. And I thought a lot about why it is so hard to take those sorts of bright sparks of where it’s working well and grow them.
And I think one of the challenges is that, our systems haven’t kept up with the way society has changed since then. The NHS was established seventy years ago. But we now all live much longer, more of us are living with a combination of long-term conditions that can’t be straightforwardly cured, and more women work outside the home and aren’t able to able and willing to provide that sort of long-term care in the way perhaps they did it in previous generations.
And yes, our system is still based around an idea that you go into a hospital, you’re cured, and you go home again. So I think there’s something really important about, first of all, having that conversation much more widely about what all of us wants and need from health and care for the future; and then thinking about which bits of the system get in the way of that. My personal view for example, is that targets around waiting times are a really unhelpful way of focusing in on a much bigger more complex system, they’re one window on it that actually makes things harder than the rest of the system.
And then when we do find those bright spots of people really making a difference, that we put lots of effort into supporting them and to learning from it. And so making sure that the systems aren’t making their jobs harder, there’s not one magic wand, but I think that real discipline of focussing on what matters now and for the future would make a difference.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:03:43] That sounds really interesting, Caroline. The point about actually that systems haven’t kept up with that sort of wider societal change. You said that those conversations need to be happening about what sort of, what we want longer term. how might those conversations take place and whose responsibility is it almost to instigate them, if anybody’s?
Caroline Gardner: [00:04:00] There obviously is a role for government. and I think government’s done a great job through, for example, the national performance framework and setting that longer term, conversation, the direction of travel, explaining why it matters. I think then there is a disconnect in the way we talk about individual public services that the cabinet secretary for health.
It’s held to account, not for achieving that sort of change. but instead for how long people are waiting for inpatient care or an outpatient appointment, and then there’s a joke for people working across health and care right across the country, all levels, all stages of their careers. obviously for institutions like the Royal society of Edinburgh, and that’s why I’m excited to be part of the post COVID commission.
but also for all of us, this isn’t something we can do to people. We’ve all got an attachment to the hospital where our kids were born, or our dad died. We have to be talking about why we can actually be providing not just a different bit of better service and future. And I think, as I say, we’ve all got a role to play in that.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:04:56] One of the more positive outcomes of COVID, I can put it in that way about without trying to negate that horrendous consequences of the pandemic, but has been the creativity we’ve seen across the public private and third sector of services have pivoted or changed what they do and how they do it in response to public need in the change context.
is there anything that particularly surprised you in that response, given your experiences audited, auditor general, was it what you might’ve expected or was it different in any way?
Caroline Gardner: [00:05:23] First of all. I think it’s been amazing if you look at the speed at which things like that, Louisa Jordan hospital was set up the way in which we were able to get free school, free meals to children during school holidays, across Scotland.
and now particularly the very rapid development of vaccines that are much more effective than even one could have expected. It just shows we can do it. And I think for me, there’s something about taking that spirit of being able to make rapid change. At scale, and thinking about how we apply that to the problems we all know we were facing before the pandemic came along, around health and care around education, around inequality, more generally, and applying the same, the same commitment and the same focus on what really matters that we’ve seen over the last nine months.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:06:06] I think that’s a really important point. Is it, how do you ensure that creativity and that culture of change is sustained and that we don’t have a reversion to normal, once there’s a vaccine in place, we don’t just go back to business as usual? how can we sustain a culture of change and creativity?
Caroline Gardner: [00:06:23] It clearly isn’t easy. And I think the people torn between on the one hand and sort of longing to get back to normal in inverted commerce, the way things used to be. And on the other hand, recognizing that the panic has shown quite a harsh light on some of the things we’ve been living with for too long now.
I think in Scotland, the government from the beginning of the pandemic has done a good job of focusing, not just on restarting. Public services business as usual, but on renewing them. And I think keeping the energy and the attention on that as we start to move into the next phase of the pandemic with vaccine rollout will be really important.
I think, looking for those people who have made really rapid and transformative changes during that period and looking at how we support them and also listening to the voices of people in communities around Scotland, who’ve shown for themselves what they can do. Equally didn’t wait for the council or the health board to come along and help them to support their neighbours or to put in place a really good early warning systems if somebody was feeling ill.
So they could self-isolate. We’ve seen how much energy and enthusiasm that unreal genius really for doing the right thing in the moment is out there. I think that shouldn’t be a wake up call for all the public services to be thinking about how much we’re doing is helping that and how much maybe it’s getting in the way.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:07:44] that seems to take us back to actually some of the debates that happened many years ago. Think about a more assets-based approach, where looking at shit that the, at the potential and the capacity and capability, for example, within communities, rather than a community is having problems that required other people to solve.
Do you think there’s anything we can take from that sort of approaches in the past to inform the future?
Caroline Gardner: [00:08:05] Yeah. I think that thinking is really exciting, and I think has exactly the right way forward. I think the problem was that it was always a bit disconnected from PR from public service as a usual and what people were doing.
Day-to-day in hospitals and GP surgeries and schools around the country. And for me, there’s something about really stepping back and enjoining all of that up. I think too often public services require. People who need support that are positional points in their lives. And actually that’s all of us to show what they lacked before their insight of the services.
You have too little money. Do you have too little physical capability? Are you unable to cope with your mental health? The moment rather than thinking what’s the matter with you? We should be thinking what matters to you? What is it that we can do to help? What’s the next thing that would make a difference?
And I think there’s something really important about trying to build that much more positive and supportive culture right across. Public services, not as a one-off top-down thing, but really as a bottom up grassroots issue, that is led by the people we’re all here to serve. That’s much easier to save them to do, but I think it is a sort of thing turning on its head of some of the ways that, civil servants, particularly I would say approach policymaking for reasons.
I understand it tends to be quite silo driven. It tends to be about what we can do to demonstrate results in three to five years’ time. And actually lots of the problems we’re facing is a much more joined up approach and a much more. A long-term approach that accepts that things are going to fail from time to time.
And we need to learn from that and move on.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:09:31] that the point about the public services and that sort of acceptance, that things need to fell. That’s quite a difficult one in a sort of public service culture isn’t that when you’re spending public money and obviously is a wish to spend that money.
not often a risk averse culture has been seen as one of the barriers to. To innovation and the public sector. What’s your reflections on that? and what do you think we might do to be able to get an understanding that risk is something that needs to be thought about it and managed, but not necessarily always avoided it?
Caroline Gardner: [00:09:56] I think you’ve just pushed it in exactly the right way. Rebekah, we can’t avoid risk there’s risk to everything we do and everything we don’t do not acting has got risks as well, but we don’t see those. I was really struck by the independent care review that was. Published at the beginning of this year, which was, really calling on all of us, not to become, less risk averse, but to bits of the broader, in our understanding of risk, they were talking specifically about looks after children and the way in which children are often.
Wrapped around by services, which don’t really fit their needs. Don’t help them to thrive because we’re thinking about risk in a very narrow way. Whereas actually the risk to those children would probably be much less if they were supported. So think about what’s important to them. What the options really are longer term.
How do they. progressed smoothly into school from school into further or higher educational work that broader thinking about risk, I think is just as applicable if within key about older people, and the risks they face from staying at home or moving into a care home and, public services more generally though.
Broadening of risk is really important. I also do think we need to grow up a bit and as auditors of civil servants of people in parliament and as a society in recognizing that sometimes things do go wrong. There’s no question about that. what I try to, foster, when I was auditor general, was the thinking about whether people had approached things reasonably, had you thought about what might go wrong?
Had you thought about. What the impact is that would be how you could mitigate it. And if you had signs that things weren’t going as planned, what did you do about it that you plow on regardless throwing good money after bad? Or did you step back and say, what can we do to support this back and to move it into a better direction?
And that’s the sort of conversation we should be having, not a finger wagging, something went wrong, who’s to blame, which really does stifle the sort of innovation we desperately need.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:11:44] I mean that maturity strikes me of maturity of thought and conversation strikes me something that’s really important and stimulating and supporting change.
I remember when I was in government, sometimes when pilots were done, sometimes it was seen that often by the civil servants as a slower rollout or something, rather than you’re testing something, you’re then evaluating whether it works. And then you’re making a decision what you do on the back of that.
But there is that challenge of actually, how do you get that public understanding and acceptability of risk, particularly? As I say, when we were spending constrained public finances, that actually things will fail. How do you think we can do better at supporting that maturity and understanding with the public?
Caroline Gardner: [00:12:21] First of all, I think we don’t actually do very much with that at all. I think, for understandable reasons, given the way our media works and the new cycle, every new announcement has to be a sort of blockbuster of how we’re going to solve a problem rather than a thing we’re going to try and experiment with.
And here’s how we’ll know if it’s working. and, I think parliament particularly has got a role to play in that in opposition policies, recognizing that if they were in palate and they, they wouldn’t have a magic wand either they’d be facing all this the same sorts of really intractable problems and challenges, that don’t have it quick fix.
actually I think it might be one of the good things that have come out of this terrible. Variance off the pandemic that I think everybody is more aware now that we’re weighing up risks and looking at how you balance releasing restrictions in one area to allow more freedoms that running the risk of more infections or of infections of on different groups.
I think that sense that this is a big complex world that none of us fully understands and none of us can fully understand means that good risk management, good risk taking, is a skill that. Everybody is recognizing more and that we should be able to talk about and to involve people in discussions debates about what it is that matters most to them and how we can get something, which as a society we can live with more happily than where we’ve been in the past.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:13:39] I think the thing I find sometimes is missing from sometimes the rest of bait as well, is that the risks attached to doing things as normal and as usual. And those might be bigger risks over time. If, for example, actually doesn’t take into tackle something because of the fear that it might not work out or might not be as effective as wish for.
Caroline Gardner: [00:13:56] I think that’s exactly right. The best example I can see if that the health service, the national health service and particularly the acute part of that. last time I reported on the NHS in Scotland, we were spending something like 42% of the entire Scottish budget on the health service. it’s been protected in real terms for most of the other parts of the budget have seen real terms.
Cuts. it is struggling to keep up with the demographic change that we’re seeing across the country. And every pound we spent on the NHS spend on the NHS is money. We’re not spending on education and early years and growing the economy and developing communities. Now, there is a. A big conversation to have about what matters to us as a country, but that’s the conversation we need to be having.
And as you say that the risk of spending more and more on the NHS and in my view, spending it on systems, which we know are increasingly not fit for purpose is that we can’t do the other things that would make us a more resilient, more equal, more flourishing country for the longer term.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:14:55] So we’ve talked a little bit about risks there and actually things that stop innovation and change.
But as you say, we’ve seen some absolutely fantastic examples of change and creativity and doing things differently over the course of the pandemic. Are there any particular examples you’d point to that you’ve really been struck by chain as whether it’s local change on the ground or something at a more national, what are the things you’re seeing at the moment that maybe excites you a bit about the potential that we have as a society and as a country to do things differently for better outcomes.
Caroline Gardner: [00:15:23] There’s so many we could pick from both of us unsure. I’ll pull out two, one at a big national organization. NHS 24 that I think has responded brilliantly, in terms of, it’s, it’s, accessibility to all 5 million of us across Scotland and its links into the NHS, both acute hospitals, emergency services and GP services.
the way that it has. Developed its website. So there’s really clear information available, and it’s, telephone services so that people can get the advice and the information they need to make their own decisions and referrals when they need to be. and for me, that’s built on the changes they’ve made over the last few years.
And really thinking about how they can be that linchpin across health and care, which is the first point of access that, which is really tailored to what’s available for me, where I live and for what’s best for me. and I hope that we can find ways of building on that for the future, because I think it’s a great example.
Of using technology in a really positive way to make it more personal rather than less facile. the other examples, I’d highlight highlighted two very local ones here in Edinburgh, where I lived. the first is the, more Shirley’s conservation trust, which I think has done a great job, when it had to stop sending out volunteers to maintain that really critical sort of waterway through the heart of the city.
it’s gradually built that up because volunteers get something from it as well as maintaining a space. That’s been important to them. All of us in our town have daily exercise back when he’s locked down was that it’s tight. but they’ve also really been encouraging. people, who were volunteering and now can’t just to pop into the business Vista centre in slate for if they need a chat and a cup of tea, quite a simple thing, but a way of just maintaining those connections, using the resources they have got the base they’ve got down there in slate foot, and really building a sense of how important, the wash of leaf is as an asset for everybody who lives in Edinburgh.
and a sense that all of us have got a stake in keeping it available. I also think North Haddon brands have done a great job in quite similar ways of building on, a community infrastructure that was there and opening it up by listening to people, hearing what matters to them and thinking about how they can provide a real space or a virtual space for people to meet or to find a friendlier when they’re struggling.
and building on that in ways that are absolutely locally based and reflecting what people need and what they can offer in their own area of the city. Both fantastic examples in my view.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:17:44] And I think also both examples that just show the innovation doesn’t have to be something, all singing, all dancing, that sort of, radically about using technology different and widespread change, actually relatively simple things that can be done that can still be transformative.
Caroline Gardner: [00:17:56] I think that’s exactly right. and I think also there’s a real lesson for all of us as public servants, but our job isn’t to be coming up with the answer it’s to be supporting people’s do that for them. So they’re individualized for their families, for their neighbourhoods. And then saying, how can we make sure that our public services, the service that we provide is supportive rather than making it more difficult?
Because I think too often, they can make it more difficult. And that shouldn’t be what we’re any of us wants to be.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:18:28] And you talked earlier, and I guess from the examples you’ve just given as well, the two local ones is there is a lot of change. There’s a lot of positive things happening on the ground or relatively local layer, but that whole challenge about, how do we scale up and learn from those nuggets of whether you want to call them best practice or good practice or whatever, but how do we do that? And you mentioned, began to mention this earlier, actually, how do we get that learning culture and how do we spread the learning?
Caroline Gardner: [00:18:51] I’m really ambivalent about that word scale up. I think that it’s it. I think people don’t actually mean it, but it holds the sense that you find a thing that works, and you then make sure that it works everywhere either as lots of little copies or as one big copy of it.
And I don’t think that works. I think you have to start where you are in each part of Scotland. what is it that would make a difference? What can people bring themselves? What’s the history of public services and buildings and green spaces and the rest of it? I think what you can scale up is like culture.
We were just talking about the culture that starts off by saying, what is it that matters to you? How can we help? What’s the next thing that would make a difference that looks at the way we can take the resources we’ve currently got and maybe use them differently. We know money is going to be tight for the foreseeable future.
but we have other sorts of resources. We’ve got lots of professionals and people who work in public services who really wants to do things differently. I’ve talked to them across my career. I’m sure you have people who are frustrated by the way they have to fit into a system, or they feel they have to, rather than being able to help them.
People who they sit with every day. I think we could be doing more with digital in positive ways. Like the things that NHS 24 is starting to do. and I think we could be thinking about what are the assets to use the term you’ve used earlier that communities themselves have got that we can help to leverage, whether it is the park sickly relevance at the moment or a building that’s not used to the full, or a network which is already in place that may be ready and willing to take on you.
Responsibilities to do more, those sorts of more flexible resources. I think of the way that we can to scale the approach without scaling a particular service.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:20:31] That’s a very fair point. I’m giving away my background as a civil servant and in my terminology, but that does raise, I think, a really interesting crash though, as well about how you balance the local and the national.
So obviously one of the challenges I think for people in government is that if things are doing at quite a localized level, that whole notion of a postcode lottery that Watts available in one place is not available in another place. how would you balance that sort of more being Bespoke and responsive to local communities with a need to make sure that there’s some degree of service is delivered at a national level that everyone is entitled to, or everyone gets?
Caroline Gardner: [00:21:04] Tricky question. And I don’t think it’s giving any secrets away to say that on the independent review of adult social care that you mentioned in the introduction, that’s one of the tricky things we’re thinking about.
my view is that, first of all, when any of us stop to think of it, we don’t actually think we all want exactly the same thing from public services, wherever we are in Scotland. if I live in Orkney or in Western Ross, what I expect from the health service is very different from what I expect to find it in central Edinburgh or the middle of Glasgow.
And we all know that. So there’s something more nuanced, which is already there to build on, I do think there probably are some things that we should be paying more attention to standardizing to put it in that way. and I think that a lot of that to me is to do with that fairness and equality thing.
I think the fact that, people providing public services, in different parts of Scotland, can be paid very different amounts and have very different sense and conditions. Very different levels of security. Isn’t right. And isn’t fair and leads to the sort of variation we don’t want to see. I think if I was a social care worker being paid under the minimum wage, with 15-minute visiting slots and not being paid for traveling time between clients, it’s really hard to see how is the best one in the world.
I could be building a relationship with the people I care for and providing them the best support that I could. so I think there is something about saying how do we level up? So sorts of, really foundational building blocks of public services. but I think increasingly I believe that if we get that what we should then be doing is trusting people to do the right thing and to be accountable for doing that in the positive and constructive way.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:22:38] a lot of what you’re saying does seem to be about trusting people at work, wherever as individuals, ourselves, or as workers and communities. I’m really struck by your distinction between asking somebody “what’s the matter with you” as opposed to what matters to you?
I think that’s a really neat distinction and I suspect that ties with the inclusive public service theme. around active citizenship. And I wonder if you could say a little bit more about what active citizenship means for you and where again, there might be good examples that you could point to.
Caroline Gardner: [00:23:07] Yeah. I should start by saying that distinction between what’s the matter with you and what matters to you comes from and international futures, forum projects in Fife, looking at really transfer transformative, Changes to the way health and social care work, which is absolutely starting to show its value, not just in how people feel about it, or that’s clearly massively important, but also in the way traditional health and care services are being used.
and I think that, that whole approach to, Changing the culture across public services to the first question you asked me, not do you fit our eligibility criteria, but let’s start to understand that build relationships and know what matters to you, what you want, what it is you’re looking for from me, what I can do to help, but also what else is available to you, is the way into that, that.
That starts to build that to the citizens directly. we know that the curriculum for excellence was intended to be developing young people. Who’ve got that sense of, responsibility and agency in their lives that they can take forward for the longer term. I think it’s behind some big. government initiatives like the national performance framework, the community empowerment act, the approach.
So a number of public services, what we’re not doing though, is joining the dots between those aspirations and strategies and what public servants across the country spend their lives doing every day. And I think a lot of that is because of the way in which we then, default bucks or title metrics, like waiting times, and attainment in narrow sums in school.
and, like the courage to hold our nerve and see, know that we know this will take five and 10 years and the generations will have an impact, but this is how we know that it’s either on track or that it’s not. And that when it’s not, we make a change. I think also we’ve got some hard thinking to do about the third sector in the wake of the pandemic.
There are some brilliant first sector organizations that do exactly this. They tend often to be smaller and local and to be very vulnerable, to, shifts in their funding or to changes in their circumstances. And we’re not good at supporting them compared to the, the biggest such organizations, which has got very good because they’ve had to that fitting into a sort of.
a traditional commissioning culture, and that I think can tend to be closer to the problems with traditional public services, rather than the energy and innovation and flexibility that you get from the best third sector services. So there’s an issue there that I’m still grappling with.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:25:37] No. again, the sort of creativity we’ve seen in the third section, often very small organizations as has been phenomenal, but I know there has been a concern about, very insecure funding that sort of hand to mouth from year to year that sort of maybe frustrates some of the longer term change at some of those organizations would be able to deliver and wish to see.
When you’re talking there about the sort of there’s outputs outcomes crunch question. And obviously when the national performance framework was being developed, part of the drive was to try and move towards a more outcomes-based approach in terms of looking at what we’re seeking to achieve, but we still have this sort of slight obsession with counting things.
And, it’d be interesting to see what we see in the manifestos when they’re published in terms of commitments to. Whether it’s number of police officers or hours of learning delivered or whatever, where do you think we are on that journey at the name, which is a country moving towards a sort of more outcomes-based approach?
Caroline Gardner: [00:26:26] I feel frustrated. We haven’t made more. I think the national performance framework what’s 13 years ago now was genuinely ground-breaking, not just in the UK, but globally loads of interest in it. and I think it, as a framework it’s developed really well as Scotland has changed. and as our environment has changed, particularly the question of the climate.
So I think that’s something we can be proud of. But, when I looked as auditor general at the sort of plumbing or the wiring beneath that at the way money was flowing, the way people’s effort was flowing, the way, the things that we were paying attention to was changing. You’re absolutely right. We were still counting.
How many police officers are there? How long are people waiting for an elective operation for a hip replacement or something? And how many teachers have we got across Scotland? those things we need to know, but they shouldn’t be the measures that we’re all focusing on. in terms of how are we doing?
Are we on the right track or do we need to trim our course a wee bit? I think the government, tiptoed closer to addressing that one, they asked the Harry Burns to review the waiting targets in, the NHS, and herring was very clear that they weren’t helping with the sorts of changes that we all need to see that are parts of government policy.
but it’s been so difficult politically to actually take that step of saying, okay, That’s not on the measure anymore. I, again, I think we’re facing a moment of change in the wake of the pandemic. And I wonder if there’s room for, all the political parties to think again about actually what this, the ambitions in Scotland, they’re fishing for Scotland, and what’s needed to make a reality of that.
and it’s something that all of us professionals, people working in public services members of the Royal society. Fellows all need to be, prepared to speak up for pants. I think it can be uncomfortable, but it’s what we’re here for.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:28:10] at the risk of maybe having a stereotype view of auditors.
But I imagine as audited gentleman and this sort of culture you were trying to, or you were developing there is it’s quite tricky there isn’t that, it’s much harder to measure outcomes than it is to actually say whether the number of police officers has been delivered or the number of teachers or whatever.
so how has auditor’s do you get that? ensure the accountability be able to scrutinize when you’ve got outcomes, which are maybe a little bit fuzzier than those sort of hard numbers and targets.
Caroline Gardner: [00:28:38] The first thing to say is that your job is always easier than the job of the people trying to deliver public services and to change them in the ways we’re talking about.
And I’m under no illusions about last at all. and actually two things. First of all, what we were looking for again, was show us your working. we do know that these changes aren’t going to happen overnight and that you still need to mow how many police officers you’ve got, how long people are waiting, but how are you planning to show that your own policies are having the effect that you want them to, that there aren’t unintended consequences that you can afford to fund them over the.
Years ahead. if you can’t show me that, then it’s very hard for me to have the confidence that you’ve done, the thinking that’s needed to manage something as complex and important as this. We also tried to use our sort of convening, to be helpful directly. So on outcomes. we produced a short guide for, public servants about, what.
a well-implemented outcomes approach looks like, drawing on good examples that you’ve seen here. Some great examples around the justice service, coming out of the Scottish government that hadn’t been learned from widely, but also drawing from global examples in the US of sicklier New Zealand.
and we tried to bring people together to open up that round table. Format so that people could sit in a safe space and learn from each other without feeling that, it was risky to be owning up to problems or to not getting it also being frustrated by the fact your partners in the health board, weren’t prepared to give up any of their intensive care funding or whatever it was so auditors can help, but we can only be a part of the solution.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:30:13] But it comes back again. I think to what you’re saying out here about the need for mature conversation and open conversation where people can say things are challenging. I think it also maybe points to some of the creativity and the third sector. I sort of some of the work of evaluation support, Scotland around outcomes and how we use them again, being quite thoughtful.
I think certainly I’ve found quite helpful in working with them. Can this through, one of your mantras seems to be, yeah. a real commitment and a passion to involving people and not doing things to them. And have you got any sort of ideas or thoughts about how we become more inclusive in the way we design and deliver services and support change so that we genuinely get different people around the table and that isn’t just the sort of usual suspects of and put it in those terms.
Caroline Gardner: [00:30:57] Yeah. I think there are lots of examples of different ways of doing it and I think there’s room for all of them. I think the government’s language is co-production is really important. and that goes just as much for producing policy as it does for producing a public service or, a community centre, but at the most sort of micro level.
and we need to make it the way we do business, not something which is. Rotten on special occasions or super similar, types of projects. I also, think that, there’s more we can do to, learn from the best use of social media. We know that social media can be very disruptive. It can be an echo chamber that just reinforces people’s prejudices or gives, amplifies the things that go wrong at the expense of all the brilliant things that go rice every day. but I think there is room for us to be thinking on the back of what we’ve all learned over the last nine months of the pandemic, how we can bring people together virtually, much more quickly with much less costs, including people whose voices weren’t heard before.
and making that just part of the way that. That business has done. and I think it has to happen all the way from things like the Scottish social security commission, and the way that user’s voices have been built into developing that new social security world here in Scotland and down to, the way that an individual person, is in the driving seat.
When it comes to deciding what supports they need to be able to stay at home in the face of, physical disabilities, life-changing injuries to things that come with age, we need to be building it in all the way through. Rather than it being something we do once and then tick as having hadn’t been completed.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:32:30] I guess throughout your career, but particularly as auditor general, you’ve had a lot of experience of providing guidance or advice to government and speaking with ministers and senior policy officials. and looking back on the experience of the pandemic thus far, what would be your sort of key bits of advice to policy makers in terms of how they support active citizenship, and, support inclusive public services in Scotland.
Caroline Gardner: [00:32:53] I think, first of all, keep that purpose in mind. I genuinely think that the government’s ambitions in this area of first class, and the challenge is to make them a reality in everything we do every day. look for the positives, look for the people who are already doing this, and look for how you can support them, get the obstacles out of the way, tell their stories.
and then. look at all the resources we’ve got available to us. Yes, money will be tight, although we’ll still be spending around 40 billion a year directly on public services in Scotland. But we have got people who wants to do things differently. Professionals in public services and communities around the country.
Who’ve seen what they can do over the last nine months. We can make better use of digital and we can draw in partners, in the third sector and the social enterprises. It’s such a big part of Scotland. so let’s make the best use of all the resources we’ve got and not just the tax money is that we can raise each year.
Rebekah Widdowfield: [00:33:47] that sounds a really positive note on which to end just reminding ourselves of what all the capacity and capability there is, in, within communities and all that we can do as individuals and collectively to support better outcomes. Caroline gardener. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and expertise around how we can use the learning from COVID to support inclusive public services and innovative thinking.
Caroline Gardner: [00:34:08] Thank you, Rebekah.