Examples of the benefits our projects have helped to achieve
The Kafka Brigade focuses on improving outcomes. Greater efficiency is often achieved simultaneously. Some examples of the larger-scale, single changes we have helped to deliver include:
Example 1: Reducing bureaucracy for the chronically ill.
Ministry of the Interior, Netherlands, 2007
In the Netherlands, people with chronic conditions were drowning/ sinking under the pressure of repeat demands for certification to qualify for benefits. This Kafka project resulted in:
- 120,000 fewer demands for medical assessment certificates, and 100,000 fewer certificates being issued per year by public service agencies. The former was achieved by abolishing the annual handicapped parking permit renewal requirement, the latter by social insurance policy shifting from universal to random eligibility checks
- around 90% of local authorities stopped requiring eligibility assessments each year for services such as home help and adaptations
Example 2: Improving transition from jail.
Ministry of the Interior, Netherlands, 2006-07
In Amsterdam, 37,000 people leave prison each year. It was estimated (by front line staff) that a high proportion of ex-offenders commit petty crimes as soon as they left prison owing to unemployment and refusal or delays in benefit allocation. This Kafka project led in particular to changes to the benefits system, whereby:
- former recipients can apply for a resumption of benefits rather than having to begin the application process from scratch
- offenders are allowed to begin this process prior to leaving, rather than on release from prison
- homeless ex-offenders are now a recognised ‘target cohort’ for special support (population: 2,500 to 4,000)
Example 3: Certifying life, death and marriage.
Ministry of the Interior, Netherlands, 2006-07
In the Netherlands, as in many other countries, birth, death and marriage certificates are required as evidence of eligibility for a range of services and benefits (both public and private – e.g., widows’ pension rights). This cross-Ministry project uncovered some perverse requirements, particularly when birth, death or marriage occurred outside the country. The Kafka project led to numerous actions, including:
- abolition of the requirement to produce a certificate proving that you are unmarried in order to acknowledge a child out of wedlock
- a Ministerial decision to merge two competing databases of births, deaths and marriages – and the units managing the databases- resulting in 157,000 fewer birth/ death/ marriage certificates being issued every year
Example 4: Tackling the proportion of school ‘drop-outs’.
Ministry of Education, Netherlands, 2007
In 2007, officials were concerned that they had lost all contact with a large number of young people who had dropped out of school. The Kafka Brigade project was tasked with a process of kick-starting improvement. It inspired:
- recognition that a new policy would not fix the problem
- the launch of an improvement initiative, ‘aanval op de uitval’, and a new performance relationship between national and local government – local authorities ‘contracted’ to deliver a 40% ‘drop-out’ reduction
- by 2010, the rate of young people dropping out had reduced by 25%
Example 5: Easier business permits.
Amsterdam & The Hague, 2005-6
In both these projects, senior officials and elders recognized that local entrepreneurs were frustrated by bureaucracy. In Amsterdam alone, there were 14 ‘one-stop shops’ for different services. There was also a high rate of non-compliance. Kafka Brigade interventions led to:
- the streamlining of licensing processes into a single website – Horeca1 – now used by half of all local authority districts in Amsterdam
- an estimated reduction in the average time spent on applications by business entrepreneurs in Amsterdam from over 2 years to just 3 or 4 months
- the removal of a planning regulation limiting hospitality businesses in the Hague
- a European prize for the Amsterdam project [name etc]
Example 6: Learning from micro-renewable energy pioneers.
Monmouthshire Local Service Board & Brecon Beacons National Park Sustainability Panel, 2010-11
In 2010, local officials started to sense a high level of frustration relating to the difficult permissions process facing people wanting to install micro-renewable technologies (hydro and wind). The Kafka Brigade intervention identified policy clashes between those encouraging micro-renewable schemes and those protecting bio-diversity, heritage and planning. The project:
- identified the clash of policy values that front-line officers were having to reconcile, and helped to shift that responsibility back to policy-makers (politicians and senior civil servants)
- identified a gap in policy which resulted in new guidelines being developed for high-head hydro schemes across Wales and England, removing unnecessary delays of over 6 months for micro-hydro projects
- streamlined the permissions process, introducing various improvements including the production of a one-stop permissions flow-chart, and a clarification of information required up-front by the citizen
- ensured a policy of early, joint site visits by officials
- identified the need for single points of contact for micro-renewable projects
- resulted in the updating and linking of information websites
Example 7: Improving services for young people NEET.
Swansea & Cardiff Local Service Boards, 2008
In Cardiff and Swansea, local services were finding it hard to reduce numbers of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET). The key role played by the Kafka Brigade in both city-projects was to challenge and instigate managerial focus on the problem.
- By 2010, Swansea was recognized as showing one of the two most-improved performances in Wales for young people NEET
- In a government-funded, independent review of Swansea’s performance, published in 2011, the Kafka Brigade contribution was described as “… a valuable process that had helped clarify performance indicators, rationalised the action plan and led to individuals and organisations taking more responsibility for reducing the proportion of young people NEET”
Example 8: Improving the response to victims of domestic abuse.
Rhondda Cynon Taff Local Service Board, 2008
It is estimated that over 12,000 local families in RCT are affected by domestic abuse each year. The combined provision of services to these victims, and their families, was identified by the local service board as requiring improvement. The Kafka Brigade intervention led to:
- an amendment to local housing policy, which now favours victims and their families over convicted perpetrators, in contrast to past prioritization
- a reverse in the decline in funding for the One Stop Shop service at the local women’s safety unit, enabling them to double available support
- an increase in early identification of the symptoms of abuse – especially in Accident & Emergency and by midwives
- an Excellence Wales prize, awarded by the Welsh Local Government Association
This is by no means an exhaustive list of completed projects. Other recent projects have included those looking at, for example, bureaucratic dysfunction in the context of state-funded further education students, domestic violence projects in other areas of Wales, young people with disabilities and people suffering from alcohol addiction.