Everyone knows that public services are going to be hit hard over the next few years, with further budget cuts, an ageing population and rising demand. Changing demographics alone equates to around £400 million of extra spending needed per year. But we also know that these challenges will be more easily met by joining up public services and targeting early intervention. The problem is that Whitehall funding, policy and commissioning processes can often create unhelpful, artificial divides between services on the ground. There have been repeated attempts to tackle this issue, either through devolving power and funding to local actors (for example, initiatives such as Total Place, Community Budgets and “Devo Manc”) or national programmes that integrate local spending around vulnerable groups (such as the Troubles Families Programme). Local partners are also pushing ahead with new approaches to service integration. The Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark partnership to tackle youth unemployment and the Tri-borough partnership in West London are just a couple of recent examples. However, while there is a huge diversity of models, there is only limited understanding of whether any of these is actually driving improvements on the ground and how to share learning and best practice more widely. […]

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