The state is trying to move from direct service provision to an "enabling" role supporting communities and charities, but must make more effort to manage this change, according to a new report from the Carnegie UK Trust.
The Rise of the Enabling State: A review of policy and evidence across the UK and Ireland, says that a "fundamental shift" is taking place, from a welfare state to an "enabling state" in which the state delivers less and instead supports others, including charities, volunteers and community groups, to provide services.
But the report also says that this change is happening in a "piecemeal, sporadic and non-explicit way", and that there are no policy makers in charge of guiding the process.
"What is lacking is a public narrative, an overarching vision, for what could be different if the enabling state was promoted as an explicit goal of public policy," it says.
The report adds that there is a "real danger that change benefits the majority and inequalities are further increased" and that it leads to a society in which the sections of the community with "fat wallets and sharp elbows" obtain most of the benefit of the new type of service provision.
The report also says there might be limited appetite for public involvement in the process and that it is likely to produce different outcomes in different areas.
A clear desire of the public and politicians for more co-operation and co-production is not matched by the reality, the report says - a process it calls "implementation deficit disorder".