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Tough times, tough measures

Published by Paul O'Brien on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 at 07:20 am

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government has been facing tough times for a number of years now and yet the
longer austerity rolls on, the more demand on services grows.


social care, school meals and leisure are among the many services facing up to
this challenging phenomenon of more demand with less resources whilst trying to
balance budgets.


what's the answer? Is it being more efficient, being more innovative or
generating more income? Well it's probably a combination of all these things.
But a degree of demand management also needs to be added to the mix.


management is not just about changing behaviour among service users, but also
about intervening earlier to avoid demand actually occurring. It's about
providing wraparound services to allow people to stay in their homes longer or
promoting healthy eating and physical activity to improve public health.


are councils tackling the thorny issue of demand management on the front-line
then? In many areas, we are seeing approaches that prompt behaviour change, for
example zero tolerance messages on littering and fly-tipping that make this
behaviour publicly unacceptable. Councils are also encouraging
DIY solutions, such as placing
more self-use grit bins in streets to combat demands on winter gritting
services for non-priority routes.


Demand analysis can
also be used to explore pe
aks and troughs for specific
services and staff rosters can be aligned with targeting of resources to reduce
the overall resources needed. This has been happening for a number of years in
grounds maintenance and parks services, for example, where seasonal demand is
aligned with annualised hours to enable reduced demand in winter to be balanced
with increased human resources in summer.


are, of course, sensitivities in using a demand led approach to review services
and it may entail tough decisions in some cases. Reviewing eligibility in
social care may be necessary, for example, to reduce demand whilst protecting
the most vulnerable service users.


employees and trade unions need to be involved in making demand led changes to
services. But aligning demand and resources more coherently can secure the
future of jobs and services in the longer term.


is a huge difference between managing demand and simply leaving residents to
get on with things on an ad hoc basis. Effective demand
management requires
a strategic approach and communication about what the council is doing and why.
It may mean looking at budgets in a more long term way,
shifting resources
and investing to save.


management is not necessarily easy but, with funding in such short supply, it
is necessary.




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