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The fundamental aim of public services is to improve the quality of life of citizens. The main objective of this study was to investigate the influence of public service organisations (PSOs) on aspects of quality of life (very broadly defined) at a local level. In doing so we addressed three main issues: we considered the degree to which different PSOs can influence a range of aspects of the quality of life of citizens both within and outside their usual domains of influence; we examined the degree to which factors outside the control of PSOs (e.g. socio-demographic population characteristics) influence quality of life outcomes; and we investigated at which hierarchical level in the public sector service area there appears to be most scope to influence quality of life of citizens. We assembled a database of quality of life measures proposed by the Audit Commission covering areas such as safety, housing, health, education, and transport, measured at “small area” level. We added data on indicators of deprivation (to measure “needs” of the local population) and on the performance of PSOs. We used a range of advanced statistical methods to analyse the relationships between PSOs and quality of life measures at different hierarchical levels. Our findings illustrate the level at which variation in quality of life indicators is most apparent. It suggests that where those variations are large, there may be scope to influence outcomes at that level to a greater extent than where the variations are small. PSOs at higher levels may therefore have an important role in influencing quality of life. However, the large variation found in many quality of life indicators at small area level is also important. Whilst there are no PSOs with responsibility for quality of life at this level, it indicates the importance of policies that operate at neighbourhood and community level.

Adriana Castelli, Rowena Jacobs, Maria Goddard, Peter C. Smith (University of York), (2009) Exploring the Impact of Public Services on Quality of Life Indicators, Centre for Health Economics Research Paper 48 [94 pages]