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Much has been made of the role digital tools can play in delivering more efficient, intelligent and citizen-centric public services. To date, however, public services have barely scratched the surface of technology’s potential.
This series of reports, kindly supported by Accenture, looks at the transformative impact of technology on the future delivery of public services.
The first paper in the series, The future of public services: digital justice, explores the role of technology in delivering justice at speed.
In 2012, the Coalition Government set out its ambition to create a judicial system that was “swift and sure”. Yet the UK’s court system remains cumbersome. Victims of crime now wait longer for cases to complete than when the Coalition came to power.
Video-enabled justice (VEJ) offers a solution. A virtual court, which establishes a video link between defendants detained in police custody and a court room, could reduce the time between custody and first hearing from hours to minutes. Transporting defendants who are detained in prison is a time-consuming and risky operation that could be avoided, as could the expense attached to running court custody facilities.
The paper draws the lessons from previous pilots and case studies the new model spearheaded by Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne for South East England, finding that an effectively managed system, delivered at scale, could deliver millions of pounds in saving.
The second paper in the series, The future of public services: digital policing, highlights the important role technology can play in helping the police forces of England and Wales address tomorrow’s challenges.
Police forces face an uphill task. Crime may be falling, but officers need new skills to keep pace with the proliferation of cybercrime and extremism. At the same time, public expectations are rising, with the public demanding a more immediate, online and mobile relationship with the police.
This paper uses the example of West Midlands Police (WMP) to demonstrate what a digitally enabled police might look like. Having faced one of the steepest budgetary challenges in the last Parliament, the force partnered with Accenture to design a new operating model capable of achieving their 2020 targets including channel shift for citizen interactions, increased productivity through more effective deployment of resource and preventative policing using data analytics.
The third paper in the series, The future of public services: digital patients, highlights the important role app and wearable technology will play in healthcare. Not only do apps and wearables help users navigate and monitor their symptoms. If care teams gain access to user-generated data, it could enrich their understanding of the patient and how best to manage their condition.
Now patients in England and Wales have access to a digital health record, the infrastructure for a new relationship between patients and clinicians is in place. The electronic transaction of health data via apps and wearables could soon become the de facto way of interacting with the health service.
But to secure this vision, the NHS will need to overcome two obstacles: securing buy-in from clinicians, and improving the quality assurance process.
The fourth paper in the series, The future of public services: digital jobcentres, sets out the opportunity to transform public employment services in the UK.
Jobcentre Plus – the UK’s public employment service – won plaudits over the financial crisis. But if Brexit triggers an economic slowdown, jobcentres must make better use of data to support their clients back into work, starting with real-time tax information, which was introduced in 2013. By merging data on the employment outcomes of former claimants with the tactics used by job coaches to get individuals back into the labour market, policymakers could develop a much richer picture of what works in employment policy – a question we know surprisingly little about.
This presents jobcentres with two opportunities. First, work coaches could use these insights to allocate training budgets more effectively and personalise back-to-work programmes. Second, if jobcentres shared this information, they could play a more proactive role in reducing unemployment. Investment decisions, for example, would improve if jobcentres’ rich understanding of local labour market conditions was made available to businesses and educational establishments.