ARLINGTON, Va.; May 11, 2021 – A new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) 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 (57%) of citizens surveyed said that the response of their social service agencies to the COVID-19 pandemic has been strong, the majority (89%) said they lack sufficient guidance on what social services they are eligible to access. This posed a challenge for the more than half (56%) 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.
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.
“With nearly 600 million full-time jobs lost worldwide in the first half of 2020, many governments — and specifically social service agencies — are now playing a more crucial role in supporting lives and will continue to do so post pandemic,” said Rainer Binder, a managing director in Accenture’s Public Service practice and global social services industry lead.“The pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for more modern, effective and personalized social services. Meeting current and future citizen service demands will require agencies to rapidly adopt new delivery models while embracing digital technologies and new ways of working.”
The slow pace of change in government services that citizens have experienced was confirmed by the executives surveyed. While more than half (54%) said their agencies had seen a spike in demand from citizens for digital services during the pandemic, a similar number (55%) 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. Most executives said their agencies will continue to invest in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cloud computing and workforce collaboration tools over the coming year.
“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,” Binder added. “To deliver better outcomes for service users and agencies alike, all stakeholders and ecosystem partners must cooperate 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 behaviors 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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