Most local authority senior leaders in the UK would agree we’re at a tipping point in terms of how public services are delivered as they contend with limited resources against a backdrop of increasing demand for those services.
In response, many local authorities have been adapting the way they work to help them meet these challenges, including a stronger focus on collaboration amongst departments and partner agencies. Councils are increasingly looking at how they can join up the work of teams supporting families and what it can bring, not just in terms of improvements to services, but, in turn, to the quality of life of those receiving those services.
This is, most likely, the reason you selected your profession – to have a lasting, positive impact on people’s lives and helping to move society to a better place.
Balancing the vision of a better society with the paradox of limited resources
This is the paradox of public sector leadership: if council directors and chief executives all tend to share one heartfelt aim in common – that of helping their communities – they also all share the burden of having to make strained budgets stretch further.
So whilst you’re focused on investing in early intervention strategies to prevent, say, exclusions from school, youth offending, or reducing homelessness, you also need to be achieving short-term savings and ensuring services are addressing the issues of today, even if this is reactively and therefore, arguably, to lesser effect.
And it’s not just about supporting children to improved outcomes – a constant topic in the media is that of the ageing population in the UK and the increasing cost of the social care bill as a result. There continues to be much discussion in terms of what society must do in terms of moving forward and a consensus that greater collaboration between agencies, where relevant and appropriate information is shared, can pick up problems earlier, cut down on duplication of public services and reduce the overall lifecycle cost.
Adaptive evolution in local government
Just as we’ve noticed councils adopting more collaborative working, we’ve also moved to a more joined-up approach. We know that many local authorities are using more than one Capita solution which is why we’ve brought our public sector software solutions together, to help us achieve more for our customers.
We’re in the unique position of touching nearly every element of local government jurisdiction and ideally placed to support the joined-up working of local authorities by shaping and creating the next generation of software services. I believe passionately that being at the leading edge of software innovation means we should be making use of this significant ability and skillset to help public services do more with less.
For example, let’s take one family with three children. They’re likely to be accessing a number of local authority services. There are the universal services that pretty much everyone uses, such as school admissions, council tax payments and free school meals (particularly with the current universal provision for the first 3 years in primary school). Then there’s the more targeted provision such as social housing, revenues and benefits, children support services and social care.
Capita provides solutions to manage each and every one of these areas…and many more too.
With a large number of families and individuals accessing these services, it’s easy to see how much easier their experience, and that of the local authority delivery teams, would be if their information was shared across services, with sensitive details restricted to authorised professionals. No more repeating of the same information over and over by the service user, no more rekeying of known data by council staff, and no more searching for information that you’re sure is somewhere on the system.
There’s also the wider benefit of teams being able to make use of that rich source of data to improve outcomes – where several different entries all relate to the same person, professionals are able to make more informed decisions about next steps. In the example of the family of three children, where the eldest sibling has committed an offence, not only might the youth justice team put in place reoffending preventative work, but a support worker working with the family might also arrange for additional help for the younger siblings to help protect them from a similar involvement.
Data is also of great interest to senior leaders when looked at in terms of analytics, to help understand where resources are being directed, and to what extent those initiatives have been successful. Analytics can reveal particular trends, highlight a child who would benefit from early intervention, and uncover where the gaps are in services, crucial when you’re faced with limited resources and need to know that each service is having a positive impact.
Leaving the legacy of a stronger society and a healthier public services bill
In the same way that council chiefs have been regenerating town centres to help encourage vibrant hubs, so too are they looking to strengthen communities to help the most vulnerable and build resilience. Both generate financial benefits, whether it’s increasing the amount of revenue from business rates or keeping the public services bill in check, but both also have a lasting impact on people’s lives, building a stronger and happier society.
From talking to local authority senior leaders I know that, despite the challenges, you’re focused on leaving this legacy of a lasting positive effect. You’ve worked hard to achieve your position so you can finally be the person making decisions about where to put resources, to really make a difference, even if much of it may be felt after your time at the council.
Having the right data in place, a clear view of those people your teams support, and the analytical tools to understand what your data is telling you, will support you in realising that vision.