Has social care performance in England improved? An analysis of performance ratings across social services organisations

Paul Clarkson, Sue Davies, David Challis, Michael Donnelly, Roger Beech

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Performance measurement in the English public sector has been implemented in a top-down manner. This regime, comprising centralised targets, public reporting of data and the use of rewards and penalties, has been driven by central government and is intended to hold agencies to account for their performance and regulate their behaviour. This article examines whether the operation of this regime has resulted in improved performance for social care organisations. In England, social care organisations have broadly improved their performance over time in composite ('star') ratings and with generally higher ratings across individual indicators, with noteworthy improvement across key threshold indicators (measures which councils must perform well on to obtain a good summary rating). This improvement contrasts with a fairly static picture in Northern Ireland. These improvements may reflect a host of factors other than the incentives created by centralised targets and measures. Data show, for example, that external characteristics of English councils influence their being reported as 'poor performers'. The rate of improvement may reflect the incentives inherent in the English performance system. Incentives promoting the achievement of specific targets may have influenced the behaviour of local managers responsible for performance in this sector. However, further information from local organisations is required to more fully explicate the relevant factors that may influence reported performance. The evidence reported does, however, point to the beneficial effects (at least for the regulator) of centrally set measures. It is uncertain whether more recent moves away from this target regime in England, towards the development of local indicators and 'individual incentive' regulation will likewise offer the appropriate inducements for performance improvement. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)403-422
    Number of pages19
    JournalPolicy Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


    • Incentives
    • Local authorities
    • Performance measurement
    • Regulation
    • Social care


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