More than nine in ten people are calling for greater long-term investment in the public sector now that there are signs the COVID-19 pandemic has passed its peak (93%) – and in 10 out of 15 areas of public spending, the majority of Britons believe that investment in technology infrastructure, rather than tax hikes, will do most to help the public sector to prepare for the future, according to new research from Thoughtworks.
The research comes at a time when appreciation of the UK’s public services has reached a new high – with 88% of people saying they appreciate the public sector much more now than they did before COVID-19 hit the UK. Heightened appreciation was particularly strong for the NHS hospitals (65%), care services for the elderly (41%), GP surgeries (36%) - while a third of those polled expressed appreciation for the Armed Forces in stepping up to help the NHS (31%).
The Thoughtworks poll also asked a nationally representative sample of 2,041 adults which areas of the public sector needed greater investment and support going forward. The NHS (95%), the emergency services (94%) and mental health (92%) topped the list as areas people were willing to pay more taxes for. However, in 10 other key areas, the survey respondents felt that tech modernisation and investment had the primary role to play to help public services become more effective and efficient - without the need for further tax rises. Key areas of the public sector where people thought technology had a leading role to play to improve capability and efficiency were; Public health campaigns (50%), probation (49%), education (48%) and higher education (47%). More broadly, almost two in five people felt technology could also enhance access to mental health services (38%) and social care provision (38%).
David Howell, Portfolio Director – Public Sector at Thoughtworks UK, commented: “In recent years we all too often associate public services with spending. In the last month, the focus has been on the people – the extraordinary bravery and commitment of our public sector heroes working around the clock to save lives, keep society safe and to maintain essential front line services. It has been a time for everyone in the UK to take great pride in the services that our taxes pay for - and to fully appreciate a health service that is free on point of use.”
“Our research also comes at a time when every household in isolation has relied on technology to work, to communicate with family members, to attend school and to order food and essential items. We have had a taste of tomorrow today in the way technology has powered our lives and it may well change the way we live our lives when home isolation is lifted. Our research shows people have made the connection between renewed appreciation of public services and considering the impact that technology could have on its future. We are about to enter a challenging economic ‘new reality’ and technology now has a vital role to play to ensure the public services we value can be grown and tailored to the people’s needs as we set about rebuilding Britain in the years after the pandemic.”
Click here to download the 'Future of the public sector' report.