By Caroline Gardner
Pausing to take stock and plan ahead can feel like an overwhelming task in our current climate of increased demand for services, tight public finances, and constitutional uncertainty.
At Audit Scotland, the annual refresh of our work programme gives us the opportunity to consider how our audit work reflects the priorities and challenges of Scotland’s public sector.
Together with the Accounts Commission, we use intelligence gained from our audit work, and engagement with key stakeholders like the Scottish Parliament and our Inform 100 youth panel, to help us decide where our audits are likely to have the most impact and make a real difference.
Our work spans Scotland’s entire public sector so we’re in a privileged position of being able to see how services link together and where the gaps are.
It can be tough for people delivering services to achieve that perspective. Each public body has its own purpose, targets and challenges. All important, but they can be barriers to building relationships delivering services differently, and long-term, sustainable change.
Health and social services are a good example of a system under pressure to deliver an ambitious vision and struggling to achieve the joined-up thinking and evidence-based decision making that would support improvement for both staff and the people who rely on their services.
The Commission and I have reported extensively on the performance of health and social care services and we’ll build on this work in the coming years.
As well as our annual review of the NHS in Scotland, we’ll revisit NHS workforce planning later this year with an audit focussed on staff in community care services.
We’ll also shine a light on other corners of the system with audits on social care sustainability and outcomes for children with additional support needs.
Delivering services differently also means equipping people and places with technology and systems that are fit for purpose. Both the Commission and I will report separately on digital progress in Scotland’s local and central governments.
Finally, reporting on the impact of the Parliament’s new financial powers remains a significant piece of on-going work. Social security is the focus of this year’s audit, specifically how well the Scottish Government is managing delivery of 11 newly devolved benefits, which will result in approximately £3.3bn in spending once they’re fully implemented.