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Lessons from COVID−19: major report on public services launched

13 November 2020

The Public Services Committee has published its first report, A critical juncture for public services: lessons from COVID-19. In the report−the first comprehensive analysis of how public services responded to COVID-19−the Committee discusses lessons to be learned from the pandemic and recommends a number of principles to transform public service delivery.


The Committee concluded that many public service providers and councils developed “remarkable innovations” to meet the COVID-19 challenge; decisions which before the pandemic took months were made in minutes. The inquiry heard from people who use public services every day, many of whom welcomed these developments.

However, the Committee identified weaknesses in public service delivery that give cause for concern:

  • insufficient support for prevention and early intervention
  • over-centralised delivery of public services, poor communication from the centre, and a tendency for service providers to work in silos rather than integrate service provision
  • a lack of integration especially between services working with vulnerable children, and between health care and adult social care
  • an inability and unwillingness to share data between services
  • inequality of access to public services and a lack of user voice

The Committee was particularly concerned about public service provision during the pandemic for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, homeless people, and people with complex needs.

Chair's comments

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Chair, Public Services Committee, said:

“The Government, local authorities and other public service providers are not working together effectively to protect vulnerable children.  
“Before COVID-19 many vulnerable children couldn’t get the public services they needed. With most unable to attend school because of the lockdown they had little support. Many more have become invisible after losing contact with public services during the pandemic”

Baroness Armstrong added:

“There should be no return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo.

“The fight against health inequality should be a priority for the Government. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people suffered disproportionately due to health inequalities and unequal access to services. 
“The Government's own pandemic planning identified that social care would need significant support during the outbreak of a disease like COVID-19, yet social care was the poor relation to the NHS when it came to funding during lockdown. Discharging people from hospital into care settings without testing and with inadequate PPE led to the tragic loss of thousands of older and disabled people.”


In its conclusions, the Committee recommended adopting several key principles:

  • The Government and public service providers should recognise the vital role of preventative services in reducing the deep and ongoing inequalities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19
  • Central Government and national service providers must radically improve the way that they communicate and cooperate with local-level service providers if they are to deliver effective public services. They should analyse where services are best delivered from the centre, where local-level service providers are better placed, and where visible accountability sits. The Government should acknowledge that local providers are equal partners in the delivery of services
  • Charities, community groups, volunteers and the private sector must be recognised as key public service providers, and given appropriate support to deliver services effectively
  • The resilience of public services to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing demographic changes will require a fundamentally different, vastly more flexible approach to the sharing of data
  • The integration of services to meet the diverse needs of individuals and the communities in which they live is best achieved by public service providers working together at the local level, and should be supported by joined-up working across Government departments at the national level
  • Local services and frontline workers must be given the resources and autonomy to innovate and improve the delivery of public services, while mechanisms to ensure the accountability of local service providers should be improved
  • Advances in digital technology should be used to increase access to public services, particularly for hard-to-reach groups, but should be applied intelligently. Online services should never replace face-to-face services if to do so would disadvantage the service user
  • Users must be involved in the design and delivery of public services

Further information