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Kittens are Evil

Little Heresies in Public Policy

Author: Charlotte Pell, Rob Wilson & Toby Lowe (Editors)

This book takes its title from the first seminar, ‘Kittens are Evil’: to suggest that private sector management methods and policies developed using private sector thinking create perverse incentives and lasting damage to the social fabric is a heresy.

Public services’ management and policy practices, underpinned by neoliberal thinking, were proposed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s - the belief was that using private sector management methods would not only improve the quality of services but increase effiency as well.

Successive governments have continued to subscribe to this belief - they believe that New Public Management (NPM), as it is now called, is the right approach to public services, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

In this first publication from the Little Heresies series, eight heretics, all leading thinkers and practitioners in their professional fields, explain the effects of NPM across a range of services:

  • Marketisation: Kathy Evans explains why marketisation is deeply destructive in the provision of all public services and for care services in particular;
  • Performance Management Practices: John Seddon, Toby Lowe and Simon Guilfoyle show how 'Payment by Results', 'Targets', ' League Tables', 'Inspection' and the like, guarantee failure of purpose, inefficiency and costly services;
  • Family policies: Stephen Crossley reveals the true cost of the failed thinking behind the Troubled Families program, and Sue White and David Wastell share some alarming research being carried out to build designer parents and children (if only we ate less, exercised more, and made more of an effort to be perfect in every way... government could absolve itself from its responsibilities);
  • Government interference: Simon Duffy, John Seddon and Simon Caulkin show how and why 'Whitehall' and interference from government in innovative new services and the management of basic services, is deeply problematic.

Each heretic offers an alternative way of thinking about and developing policies. Government would do well to listen to these experts in designing practices for the future.

Chapter Authors:
Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England
Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform
Simon Caulkin, Writer and editor
John Seddon, Leader of the Vanguard organisations
Toby Lowe, Senior Research Associate, Newcastle University Business School
Simon Guilfoyle, serving police officer and university lecturer
Stephen Crossley, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Northumbria University
Sue White, Professor of Social Work, Sheffield University
David Wastell, Emeritus Professor, Nottingham University Business School