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More Citizens are Accessing Digital Social Services and Want Proactive and Personalized Experiences, Accenture Report Finds

London; Tues, May 11, 2021 – A new report from Accenture found that many citizens have acquired significant new caregiving responsibilities at home during the pandemic, yet most are unaware of what social services are available to them.
The report, ‘Social Services: Lead with Impact’, found that while more than half (55%) of U.K. citizens surveyed said that the response of their social service agencies to the COVID-19 pandemic has been strong, the majority (92%) said they lack sufficient guidance on what social services they are eligible to access. This posed a challenge for the more than half (57%) of respondents who have had significant new caregiving responsibilities at home during the crisis.

The report is based on two surveys: one of more than 7,000 citizens across 10 countries in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, and another of 600 executives holding leadership positions within social services, employment, public pension and child welfare agencies in those same countries. The research sought citizens’ views on the assistance they received from social services agencies during the pandemic and the views of leaders on their agency’s response to the crisis. Just over 1,000 of the citizens surveyed reside in the U.K. and 70 of the executives interviewed hold leadership positions within UK welfare and social service agencies.

The report identifies key strategies to enable agencies to manage the disruption caused by the pandemic and to transform how social services are delivered in the future. Strategies include the creation of new organizational and workforce processes, the deployment of new technologies and increased agency collaboration with citizens, community groups and ecosystem partners in the design and delivery of new and more personalized services.

Over one-third (37%) of U.K. respondents said the services they accessed during the pandemic were tailored to meet their individual needs and more than one-quarter (28%) said they would like more personalisation and tailoring of services to better reflect their individual needs and circumstances. Similarly, one-third (33%) said they would welcome more proactive information from their social services and welfare agencies about job opportunities and services available to them. Almost two-fifths (39%) said they would be willing to collaborate with their welfare and social services provider to help co-create new and enhanced services.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for government assistance was rising steadily in many countries, spurred by trends such as ageing populations. But the pandemic—and the measures to contain it—intensified the strains on the elderly and other vulnerable groups, especially the unemployed and those furloughed from work. Never has there been such an urgent need for more modern, effective and personalized social services,” said Jo Knibbs, a managing director in Accenture’s public service practice in the U.K. “Meeting current and future citizen service demands will require welfare agencies to rapidly adopt new delivery models while embracing digital technologies and new ways of working.”

Agency Response
The slow pace of change in government services that citizens have experienced was confirmed by the executives surveyed. While the majority (70%) of U.K. executives surveyed said their agencies had seen a spike in demand from citizens for digital services during the pandemic, a similar number (67%) said their agency had struggled to stand-up new digital solutions and to automate business processes in response to the crisis.

The research found that despite many agencies postponing investments in new technologies over the last year, technology is viewed by executives as vital to improving agency responsiveness and service accessibility for citizens. U.K. executives said their agency will continue to invest in technologies such as workforce collaboration tools (77%), data analytics (64%) cloud computing (67%) and artificial intelligence (47%) over the coming year.

As a result of the disruption and challenges experienced during the past year the vast majority (84%) of U.K executives said they expect their organization’s strategy and operations to look significantly different in the years ahead and like their global counterparts recognise the need to introduce new services and delivery models, accelerate technology investments and work closer with community and ecosystem partners to enable change.

“Accessing social services doesn’t need to be stressful for people and services can be personalized, when designed in collaboration with citizens and a diverse and capable workforce,” Knibbs added. “To deliver better outcomes for service users and agencies alike, all stakeholders and ecosystem partners must cooperate and co-create new services to reenvisage agency operations and deploy digital technologies that enable new ways of working and deliver innovative new offerings and services to those who most need them.”

The research was based on two separate but related online quantitative surveys. The first—of 7,005 people in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. who had used a government-provided social service within the past two years—sought to capture citizen attitudes, perspectives and behaviours concerning social services provision and the response of social services providers to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second survey queried 662 executives (in C-suite roles such as agency directors, directors of IT, policy directors and function heads) who lead social services, employment, public pension and child welfare agencies in the same 10 countries.

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