Quality of public services in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by Ukraine
Relevance of the study of access to quality public services of the population living in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts controlled by the Government of Ukraine is due to the high level of the social vulnerability caused by the ongoing military conflict in eastern Ukraine, the ambiguous consequences of decentralization reform, and the introduction of quarantine restrictions caused by to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the article is to analyze the quality of services provided by public authorities and local governments to residents of the government-controlled territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, based on focus group interviews. The 6 focus groups were conducted within the project of the Donetsk Institute for Social Research and Political Analysis “Services available to the population and assessment of power in Donbas on both sides of the line of demarcation” in February 2021 in Mariupol, Slovyansk, Bakhmut (Donetsk region), Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and Stanytsia Luhanska (Luhansk region), which allowed collecting information on the range of available public services in these locations, define the most popular services and barriers to their delivery, and criteria for assessing the activities of residents of public service entities, as well as ways to improve quality of those services. Focus group discussion revealed that in the locations covered by the study, the influence of the spatial factor on ensuring the quality of public services is significant. Due to the manifestations of crisis consciousness formed in living conditions near the zone of military conflict, residents are not too demanding about the quality of services and react mainly to cases of long-term lack of services, vital for life-support. There are no clear criteria for assessing the quality of public services in their collective mindset. The availability of public services (the actual possibility of obtaining them at the place of residence) and the transparency of the authorities’ activities that provide them are essential. For the most part, residents do not feel their responsibility for the quality of services. When substantiating the expressed trust or distrust in the authorities, their rational arguments are often inferior to the affective ones. In addition to overcoming the identified problems in the primary spheres of life support, the study showed the expediency of focusing the efforts of local authorities and the “third sector” on the formation of appropriate client competence of public service recipients in controlled by Ukraine areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in particular, of the full range of services available in situ, the conditions and mechanisms for their provision, the powers of local governments, the nature and essence of relations between the subjects of public services); on the development of instruments of “participatory democracy” and public control of power mechanisms. The positive perception by the population of decentralization reform, digitalization programs, CAS activities outlined the prospects for improving the management of public services in the direction of further devolution, modernization of service delivery mechanisms through technologicalization and depersonalization of processes, principles of “single window”, efficiency, transparency customer-tailored orientation.
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