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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.