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.
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
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
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.
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
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