Public Service Reform

What is Public Service Reform (PSR) and what does it mean for communities?

Our challenge is to create jobs, enhance skills, develop prosperity and drive economic growth. This will be done through getting more from our public services.

PSR vision – ‘Transforming lives in the West Midlands’

The WMCA’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), has a significant focus on PSR and its vision of transformation of the lives of people in the West Midlands.

An aspiration of the PSR programme is to eliminate the gap between the cost of local public services and the tax generated by the local economy. This gap currently stands at over £4 billion per year.

Change is not just achieved by reducing the deficit between public expenditure and income raised through taxes and revenues, but by improving the quality of life of everyone in the area.

PSR has expressed this in three ambitions:

PSR includes a programme of activity supporting people with complex needs, reforming criminal justice, and improving employment, skills and mental health. The WMCA plans to reform services so they improve quality of life, improve life chances, health and wellbeing, prevent excessive demand, reduce dependency, unlock more assets in communities and support the ageing population.

The programme focuses on four areas:

  • Multiple Complex Needs
  • Offending, Criminal Justice and devolution of Youth Justice
  • Employment and skills
  • Health and wellbeing (including mental health)

Other key enablers include an annual policy research plan, information sharing and analysis, workforce development, Apprenticeship Levy proposals, a PSR review tool and digital vision.

We are also establishing an Inclusive Growth Unit to transform peoples' lives by developing new ways of positive economic change in their communities. You can read more and get involved here.

How will it be delivered? 

Work Streams

1. Health and Wellbeing

The WMCA's Wellbeing Board governs work to improve wellbeing and health outcomes. Health and social care represents around a third of annual public spending in the West Midlands (over £7 billion).

The first major reform projects are implementing the 'Thrive' Mental Health Commission work and the 'On the Move' physical activity strategy.

2. Employment and Skills

The key areas of focus are the first Devolution Agreement and outcomes from the Productivity & Skills Commission as well as looking at potential areas for further devolution.

3. Offending, Criminal Justice & Devolution of Youth Justice

Criminal justice and devolution will enable us to prevent crime and reduce re-offending by giving us the tools and incentives to invest rather than manage the cost of failure.  We will work with partners and voluntary sectors to address offending, with a focus on reducing repeat offending by those with particular vulnerabilities – initially young people and adult women offenders. 

Key areas are:

  • Understanding children and young people
  • Benchmark current actions and service provision - cost, outcomes, governance
  • Review research and best practice nationally, regionally and internationally
  • Review options to meet prevention whilst fulfiling our responsibilities
  • Look at further devolution of youth justice in line with the Taylor review recommendations and the government's response 
  • Establish costs and benefits of application to the West Midlands
  • Recommendations to government and WMCA on costed options for future delivery.

 The Criminal Justice work stream is timely because:

  • It provides an opportunity to build on youth justice successes to improve outcomes for children
  • The current youth justice system is not fit for purpose
  • There is major potential to transform lives
  • There are significant devolution opportunities
  • Government has completed the Taylor Review of Youth Justice which highlighted potential improvements.

4. Multiple Complex Needs

People with multiple complex needs often suffer from health problems, unemployment and family breakdown. Current services are not supporting these people, leading to unfulfilled lives and high public service and social costs.

Key issues include:

Definition – Based on people with complex needs relating to offending, homelessness or substance misuse. There are gaps in this which are currently being explored.

Prevalence - Research suggested relatively high common occurrences in West Midlands, but this analysis needs to be updated.

Costs - Analysis suggests higher public service costs for people with multiple complex needs.

Causes – There are many factors influencing whether someone develops multiple complex needs. Issues to explore include:

  • Resilience (including mental and emotional wellbeing)
  • Attachment (and neglect)
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences
  • Trauma (e.g. domestic violence)
  • Relationships and social networks (especially loss of key family members)
  • Behaviours (including individual, community, professional and parenting behaviour)
  • Protective factors
  • Effective support as an individual (e.g. mentoring)
  • Community impacts (for localities and interest groups)
  • The importance of structure and a sense of purpose in living.


1. Workforce Development

Workforce development has been identified as a means to deliver public sector reform – and meet the projected £4bn public service funding gap to 2020 in the region. The University of Birmingham, funded through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), are helping to develop a workforce development approach.

This will support WMCA to develop:

  1. An accredited leadership framework for public service.
  2. A competency based apprenticeship framework for public service.

Building on research findings a number of key skills and competency themes are proposed for supporting PSR:

  • Collaborative leadership 
  • Managing customer demand (promoting self-help)
  • Improving productivity through innovation
  • Developing digital public services
  • Business intelligence and evidence skills

2. Research and Intelligence

Robust research and intelligence helps inform debates, explore options, free up resources, and evaluate new ways of working. The proposed strategic vision is:

' create actionable insight supporting improved outcomes for WM residents, by informing WMCA decision making.'

The WMCA support a new model for research and intelligence, which complements wider engagement. It provides an opportunity to improve outcomes for residents by:

  • Focusing research and intelligence on delivering the SEP
  • Taking a regional overview, working across teams, understanding local issues
  • Ensuring research is reliable and robust by developing common principles, standards, methodologies and training
  • Improving information sharing and analysis across WMCA partners

The proposed priorities over the next three years are:

  • Delivering the research agenda for the SEP
  • Using existing knowledge
  • Learning what works and why - the West Midlands will be a hotbed of innovation in economic growth and public service reform, so we need to learn and adapt quickly
  • Understanding local people, particularly those with multiple needs so we can transform social and economic outcomes

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