Friday 31 May 2013

Are We Mugs?

I hope the Welsh Government isn't feeling smug about their survey which shows what the Welsh think about statutory services (follow this link).

There is an interesting comparison with Scotland where people seem to be more contented generally (so much for the stereotype of "dour Scots") and yet more sceptical about the effectiveness of public services. Concrete measurements of that effectiveness absolutely do not suggest that Welsh services are superior.

So are Welsh people mugs who know they are a bit miserable but can't identify the Government's share of the blame for that? To some extent we may be mugs I'm afraid. Take the case of education which indicates quite high levels of satisfaction among parents about their children's schools. However, objectively Wales is in a severe educational crisis with a high risk of the gap in exam results for pupils compared to England opening up still further. Little comfort that parents and children get along okay with the schools if the LEAs and teachers are complacently letting standards slip.

But there is more to it than that. Welsh people have generally given the devolution settlement a lot of support and the Welsh Government is still enjoying a ten year honeymoon with the public giving them the benefit of the doubt. This contrasts with the Scots who took devolution for granted right from the off and have given successive Scottish Governments a hard time, expecting better results.

It is time for us to take devolution for granted too and look for much better performance from the Welsh Government (and indeed from politicians of all parties) not least in health and social care and mental health services in particular - because they aren't very good!

Oh, and anyway we shouldn't take too much notice of surveys which purport to measure our "well-being". The general public's happiness has little to do with what governments do and even less to do with what mental health services do, apart of course from the well-being and happiness of people who actually rely on those services.

Our message to the Welsh Government should be: we will get on with our lives and find our path to happiness thank you very much; you should get on with your job, which is not to conduct surveys but to work hard to make public services better quality and more cost-effective, measured by objective facts not opinion.