Attitudes to providing and funding particular services
The need to restructure and maximise value from limited public sector budgets has lead to increasing debate across the UK about (a) the potential role of the private and voluntary sector in delivering some public services and (b) areas in which service users might reasonably be expected to make a contribution to the costs of the services they receive (co-payment).
The 2011 SSA survey asked people to compare private companies and charities with government providers of care for older people in terms of both cost effectiveness and quality (assuming that such services were free to those who used them either way). The findings show that in comparison with the private sector a majority feel that government would provide both a more cost effective (56%) and a better quality service (60%) for older people who need regular help. In contrast, the public appears to rate third sector service providers more highly than government on both measures - 56% felt charities would provide more cost effective services than government, and 54% that they would provide better quality services.
Younger people appear more positively disposed than older people to the relative merits of both private companies and charities as service providers for older people, while those with no educational qualifications were less positive about both. Public sector employees and those who are more politically left-wing in general were more negative about private companies, but not about charities. Graduates and those on higher incomes appear to draw distinctions between the ability of the private sector to deliver more cost effective services and its ability to deliver better quality services for older people, but did not make similar distinctions with respect to charities.
The public appears divided on whether personal care for older people ought to be provided free of charge on a universal basis, or whether it should be means tested - 51% thought the government should pay for such care, no matter how much money a person has, but almost as many (46%) felt that who pays should depend on how much money the person has. Those aged 30 and older were more likely than those under 30 to support universal free care, while support for free personal care decreases as people's level of education increases.
SSA 2011 also asked people whether they were in favour or against charging people for the cost of meals while in hospital, the cost of school-based musical instrument lessons and the cost of school trips. A majority (76%) were opposed to charging patients for meals. However, opinion on charging parents for school-based activities was more divided - 41% were in favour of charging for individual school-based instrument lessons, while 51% favoured charging parents for the cost of a school trip to a local museum. Views have moved very slightly further in favour of charging since these questions were first asked (in 2007).
Email: Linzie Liddell