We haven’t reviewed every attempt at evaluating providers of education and health services, or specific social programmes (such as preventing youth suicide for example). So we can’t catagorically say what is working well when authority has been devolved and what isn’t. In fact one of our conclusions is that NZ needs to start taking the evaluation of policy design and delivery far more seriously. With that qualification in mind our general view is that giving communities authority in education, while a great idea that we support in principle, was undermined by a policy mindset which effectively forced (through funding rules) communities to compete with one another. The earlier practice of different schools sharing ideas and resources ceased under this competitive model. This invariably hurt less well off communities who had most to gain from sharing ideas with other schools. A similarly competitive mindset was evident in the early days of devolving health care to community-run providers, with a myriad of providers offering similar services and competing for patients. While we support the idea of a community-delivered education system we would like to see a more collaborative model and that could mean, among other things, changing the funding incentives faced by school boards. The Rangatahi youth court offers a more recent experiment with devolution and one that is showing good promise. Here the focus is not on competing but on providing genuine choice and effective support for troubled youth. A rangatahi court is an alternative to the usual family court and youth, by confessing to their crime, can opt to have their case heard there. The court is a collaboration between the mainstream court and the Maori community (both provide people who play a formal role at the hearing and the hearing is held on the Marae). A pilot has now been rolled out in the Pasifika community too.

What does the evidence say about the quality of devolved services? was last modified: January 5th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan