Needs Assessments in Public Policy

Needs Assessments in Public Policy

Needs Assessments in Public Policy

Needs Assessments in Public Policy


Need is increasingly used as the basis for the provision of a range of public services. This timely book examines the ways in which needs are assessed in relation to these services. It examines the theory and practice of needs assessment and presents a series of policy specific case studies where needs assessments are being used, including: health, housing, community care, legal aid and training.

Designed for use by students and practitioners involved in social and public policy, this book addresses the theoretical, conceptual and practical issues associated with needs assessment today.


Janie Percy-Smith

This collection of papers takes as its starting point a strong belief that meeting needs is what public services ought to be about. This is clearly a normative statement which is reflective of my own political values, but it is also empirically rooted. It is the case, as a matter of fact, that need, variously and often imperfectly defined, is the basis on which a range of public services are currently distributed, as will become clear from the case study chapters in Part ii of this volume. This is reflected in policy statements and statements of intent across policy areas. It is also true to say that, for ordinary people, the concept of need is often inextricably tied up with issues of fairness and social justice. So people react with outrage to stories of scarce public resources going to people who are not ‘really’ in need or of people in ‘real need’ going without. Although this can also be used as the basis for emotive attacks on ‘scroungers’ and those who are deemed to be undeserving in a moral sense of public assistance, it does nevertheless reflect a common acceptance that the concept of need is, and should be, an important consideration in decisions about the allocation of public resources. It is interesting to note that this appears to continue to be the case despite 15 years or more of ideological attack on need as the basis of provision and the attempt to develop markets and quasi-markets through which services should be provided, as documented in Ian Sanderson’s chapter.

Needs assessment is of increasing concern to policy makers for a number of reasons. First, a number of new policy developments require by law, or strongly recommend, that needs assessments be carried out. My own chapter on community needs assessments makes this point in relation to recent urban regeneration initiatives; Martin Browne’s chapter on community care draws attention to the requirements of the nhs and Community Care Act; Anne Foreman’s chapter on health needs assessments makes reference to the guidelines relating . . .

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