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Public services workforce at “breaking point”

19 July 2022

The Public Services Committee publishes its report “Fit for the Future? Rethinking the public services workforce”, which examines the challenges facing the public services workforce and outlines an action plan to ensure its sustainability for the future.

This report completes an inquiry begun in February this year which has examined how public service staff, currently subject to a “vicious circle” of overload and vacancies, can be made fit for the future.

The report concludes that there is a crisis looming in the public services workforce with a shrinking workforce unable to meet rising demand for increasingly complex services. The report further concludes that the current situation will only worsen but that - while the challenge is significant - imaginative, creative and flexible solutions can and must be implemented to make delivery more efficient, and public service careers more attractive.

The report

Key issues the report considers:

  • The workforce experience: many public service workers face “intense pressure” and “suffering” as well as unacceptable levels of discrimination.
  • Workforce deployment: the potential of many staff to deliver services is largely untapped. There is a need to think imaginatively about how and where they could better be deployed.
  • Recruitment: there are simple ways to enhance the “offer” of public service careers. They should be taken.
  • Routes into public service careers: traditional routes are limiting, and action must be taken to make public service careers more accessible.
  • Training: the public sector needs to “train to retain”, and the public sector must rethink their training and development offer, allowing staff to meet their full potential.

Chair's comments

The Committee Chair, Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, said:

“It is clear that user demands on the public services workforce are increasing and that staff numbers cannot keep up. It is imperative that we find new and different ways of delivering effective public services and taking the public sector workforce along in this process so that people get a better service when they access these facilities.

“If the plan of action we set out is implemented, it will be a substantial step in ensuring a public sector workforce that is efficient, effective and sustainable in the long-term. We need to reshape - and rebrand - public services to make then an attractive career choice. We can do that by empowering people, and providing innovative training with personal and professional development, so they feel valued and want to remain in these important careers. In addition, consultation with service users and those with lived experience will allow their input to be a real part of redesigning services to deliver exactly what is needed, when it is needed.

“We recognise that this is not just a job for Whitehall but for local government, regulators, professional bodies, universities, senior public service management and all other relevant parties who will have to work together to address how the increasing and inescapable challenges faced by the public services workforce can be tackled.

“We urge the Government to take the lead in implementing the report’s plan of action and encourage other relevant parties to join in implementing the necessary changes for a public services workforce which is fit for the future.”

Further information