RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • We surveyed over 7000 people in 10 countries – 1000 in the UK – to identify the key priorities needed to deliver effective welfare services.
  • With nearly 600 million full-time jobs lost worldwide in the first half of 2020, welfare service providers have played a vital role in people’s lives.
  • Following an extraordinary response, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in organisational structures, delivery models and systems.
  • Meeting these challenges means welfare service providers need to embrace new technologies that encourage human ingenuity and new ways of working.


Between July and September 2020 we surveyed more than 7000 people worldwide – 1000 in the UK – who had received a welfare service within the past two years, and 600 executives currently leading employment, public pension and child welfare agencies – 70 of whom were based in the UK.

18%

of UK citizens expect to use more welfare services in the future.

45%

of UK citizens believe they face a high risk of contracting COVID-19 at work.

57%

of UK citizens now shoulder significant caregiving responsibilities at home.

Unsurprisingly, in a time when 600 million full-time jobs were lost worldwide in the first half of 2020, social services have never had a more vital role to play in people’s lives. Agencies across the world have been on the front line of the crisis, deploying critical services and handling an explosion in workload. But while their response has been extraordinary, the pandemic has also exposed the vulnerabilities in their organisational structures, delivery models and ways of working.

In fact, the need for more government support has not translated into more positive views of government: some 46% of respondents in the UK rated their trust in government as low today, compared with just 29% before the pandemic.

Departments under strain

Not surprisingly, welfare service providers are feeling the strain. Most executives said the need to do things like create new digital offerings, handle soaring demand for digital services and respond quickly to policy changes poses big challenges for their agencies.

84%

of UK executives agree or strongly agree that welfare services will look very different in the years ahead.

50%

of UK executives rated their own organisation as highly prepared for current and future challenges.

The Key Priorities

As agencies rethink how—and what—they offer citizens, three priorities stand out:

Priority 1: Becoming more responsive

Welfare providers today face higher demand for their services, new technical hurdles, such as social distancing rules, and rising expectations among citizens over service quality. All of these developments make it harder to deliver services quickly and effectively—yet this will be ever more vital in dealing with crises to come.

Looking across the efforts to be more responsive by leading welfare services providers worldwide, a clear theme emerges: those in the vanguard have the biggest impact on their citizens’ lives by delivering services in a frictionless way, and meeting citizens’ needs with personalised experiences wherever and whenever they require.

Digitally advanced countries:

Chart depicting data about types of services offered by digitally advanced countries.

While more digitally advanced countries—notably Singapore—have made great progress, most welfare services agencies across the world are not yet making the most of the powerful tools available to them and still have much further to go:

16%

of the UK executives we surveyed said their organisations have deployed new services on a large scale during the pandemic.

Priority 2: Becoming more accessible

Our research indicates clearly that improving accessibility and transparency helps to build trust and belief in the leadership and support offered by government. But an equally important message is that making services more relevant will do little good if citizens are not aware of the choices open to them: 92% of UK respondents said they lack sufficient guidance on what services they’re eligible for, while 41% said that reduced waiting times would be the best way to increase their trust in government.

Accenture’s Virtual Visit Solution is another way that governments are making services more accessible while increasing trust through safe, on-demand delivery.

Priority 3: Embracing human ingenuity and new technologies

As we’ve highlighted, delivering improvements in both responsiveness and accessibility is vital for welfare service providers to impact lives and livelihoods. While trying to keep pace with their citizens’ needs, it’s particularly important for welfare service providers to embed a more ‘agile’ organisational mindset – one that supports the development of new ideas and the adoption of new technologies.

Yet, this is something that many appear to be postponing—even as employees see the benefits of the investments made to date.

43%

of UK executives said their departments have not yet invested in virtual work solutions.

47%

haven’t invested in “modular and flexible infrastructure” such as cloud.

66%

haven’t invested in big data and analytics.

69%

haven’t invested in artificial intelligence.

Towards a brighter future for citizens –and government

Alongside its other impacts, COVID-19 has dramatically underlined the crucial role of government welfare services in supporting countries’ most vulnerable citizens. It has also demonstrated the need for more effective delivery of these services. Technology is clearly part of the solution. But an equally important enabler is embracing new organisational mindsets and ways of working.

Organisations that commit today to meeting both imperatives will open the way to a brighter future for their citizens—and for themselves.

Rainer Binder

Managing Director – Public Service, Social Services Lead


Meghan Yurchisin

Global Lead, PS Research & Thought Leadership – Accenture Research


Jo Knibbs

Managing Director – Health & Public Service, Client Accounts, United Kingdom

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