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NESC Publishes Council Report 133: Achieving Quality in Ireland’s Human Services – A Synthesis Report

NESC publishes eighth report in series which reviews quality in our public services
Achieving Quality in Our Public Services

In recent years, there has been a ‘silent revolution’ in the regulation of many of our public services, for example, through HIQA and others. ‘There is now greater attention to the quality of services, and the standards underpinning them, thanks to increased oversight’ said Dr Rory O’Donnell today, Director of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). The NESC are hosting a conference on Quality and Standards in Public Services where the final report of a series of reports on public services, Achieving Quality in Our Public Services: A Synthesis Report, is being launched.

The report notes that many citizens in Ireland seem to have lost trust in public services as a result of systems failures in some services. The main conclusion of this report, however, is that there has been progress and reform in terms of the regulation of some services by making them more accountable for standards and outcomes. There is considerable value in drawing on this experience to develop quality services and repair trust.

Nevertheless, the report concludes that two further steps are necessary for continuous quality improvement: collaboration and continuous scrutiny. Firstly, individual organisations need to be supported to improve through collaboration with regulators, other providers and user groups; and secondly, there needs to be continuous scrutiny of the overall quality and cost of services within a given field to ensure they are aligned with people’s and society’s changing needs.

Professor John Seddon, a UK expert on regulating public services and key note speaker at the conference, said today that ‘the greatest lesson from UK public sector reform has been the damage caused by ill-conceived regulation; intended to make services better, it actually made services worse. The National Economic and Social Council is carving out new ground for regulation that is better fitted to purpose’.

Note to Editors:

Conference on Quality and Standards in Human Services

The Conference is taking place on Wednesday 21st November in Croke Park from 9.15 to 16.30. The Conference will explore the extensive work conducted by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) on Achieving Quality and Standards in Human Services. The conference will highlight the most important findings from the NESC work with noted scholars and prominent practitioners elaborating on its implications for future reform of important human services. Key speakers include Professor John Seddon, a UK-based expert, Professor Colin Scott, an expert in EU Regulation and Governance in UCD, and practitioner Mervyn Taylor who has managed a programme of end-of-life standards through the Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme. The conference includes a number of workshops and an informed panel discussion, including representatives from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Health Information and Quality Authority. Further information is available on the NESC website at

NESC Reports on Quality and Standards in Human Services

NESC has published a series of reports on quality and standards in human services this year. In January 2012, it published an overview of concepts and practices, which examined international and Irish evidence of approaches to regulation and standards-setting in human services, along with the promotion of good practice. This Autumn, it has published further reports on quality and standards: on policing; on schools; on disability services; on residential care for older people; on home care for older people; and on end-of-life care in hospitals. The report being published today (Achieving Quality in Ireland’s Human Services – A Synthesis Report) summarises the findings across these six areas and draws overall conclusions.

The key points from the six reports on specific public services are:

• there is now a more effective oversight infrastructure for investigating complaints against gardaí;
• schools will be required to issue a five-year improvement plan and regularly evaluate their progress;
• there is now considerable momentum towards a personalised model of care in the disability sector, which could build on much of the innovative work that has been accomplished by non-governmental organisations;
• HIQA has operated as an effective regulator of care for residential institutions for older people;
• standards are beginning to be applied in the area of homecare for older people; and
• the Hospice Friendly Hospital movement has established where end-of-life care needs to be improved and has regularly supported and monitored progress on this issue.


The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973. Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and the negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners. The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach. It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments, as well as eight independent experts.

To download the documents, visit the publications section of the website.

For further information contact:

Rory O’Donnell
087 6595619 / 01 8146330

Helen Johnston
087 4191780 / 01 8146333