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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Dec 14, 2011 - 7:09 AM

Least well-off give lowest quality ratings to Ireland's public services
By Finfacts Team
Dec 14, 2011 - 7:05 AM

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The least well-off give the lowest quality ratings to Ireland's public services, according to new ESRI research. Those who are economically vulnerable, and thus rely most on public services, rate the quality of those services below the rest of Irish society. The study suggests new ways to improve their experience of public services.

The new research [pdf] uses the European Quality of Life Survey and is based on responses obtained before recent cuts to public services began. Representative samples of people in European countries were asked to rate public services in the areas of education, health, transport, care for the elderly and pensions. The data for Ireland reveal that only public education received a high public rating by EU standards, while the rating given to the health services was one of the lowest among the fifteen Western European countries.

People classified as economically vulnerable gave lower ratings to all services except education, even after the ESRI study controlled for some factors relating to people’s personal experience, such as difficulty accessing health care, lack of local public transport and the tendency to give generally negative ratings.

The Government’s plans for reform of the public services contain a commitment to “customer focus”. The new study suggests various ways in which feedback from public service users might be used to improve public service quality, especially as experienced by those in more economically vulnerable groups.

Commenting on the findings, study author Dr. Dorothy Watson said: “The Government commitment to 'customer focus' needs to be given real content, by involving the public, especially the least well-off, in the design of public services and in monitoring quality. A beginning can be made right now. International research shows that delivering good quality public services is as much about how the service is designed and delivered as it is about the amount spent.”

Another research report in the institute's Economic Renewal series, says there is insufficient evidence to support the introduction of pay-for-performance schemes in the Irish health-care system, according to a review of international evidence conducted by ESRI researchers.

The new study concludes that pay-for-performance should not be considered at least until the many complexities in financial incentives in the current system are resolved.

Download pdf

In another research report, the ESRI says the evidence shows that rigid grouping of students by ability, or “streaming”, harms overall educational outcomes. This happens because students assigned to lower ability classes tend to do much worse under streaming, while those assigned to higher ability classes do not make corresponding gains. So average student performance falls.

Download pdf

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