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Social services reinvention: human-led and tech-enabled

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By Rainer Binder, Accenture Global Social Services Lead

The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on the importance of social jobs, which cover education, healthcare and care, and include social services. Countries relied heavily on this sector to maintain their critical services. As we look to the future, it is important that we don’t lose sight of this, and everything is done to support agencies and their people to adapt and continue to play this essential role as the foundation of wider economic and social progress.

Research last year from Accenture and World Economic Forum highlighted the impact that investment in the social service sector could have on the wider economy. Modelling done in the US suggested that every dollar spent could create a 2.3x return on investment in terms of GDP as well as wider job creation.

However, ageing and growing populations are set to put these services, and the people who work in them, under increasing pressure. A recent update of the Accenture and World Economic Forum research, which looked at demand for social and green jobs in 10 countries, found that there would need to be a 37% increase in the total number of social jobs by 2030. For the care sector, including social workers and professional carers, this would represent a 9.8 million increase in roles in these countries.

Three questions for social service leaders

Unaddressed, this gap could impact both individuals and the economy as a whole. To take action social service leaders should look to answer three key questions:

 1.   How can we go beyond pay to make social jobs attractive to new and existing employees?
Of course, pay will always be a key issue, but it is not the only thing that matters. Particularly for people who have chosen to work in the public sector,
86% of whom say that their work aligns with their desire to do something worthwhile and meaningful. Creating this sense of belonging will mean embracing the whole spectrum of people’s needs, including more flexible working and better skill development opportunities.

      2.  How can technology help improve employee experiences and the care they deliver to service users? 

     This goes beyond simply using automation to free people from repetitive and simple tasks. Leaders can use applied intelligence to identify areas for skills development and metaverse technologies could help deliver better training that ensures a high level of care delivery, even in the most difficult of situations.

      3. How can new technologies augment the services that social workers deliver? 

      There is a growing demand from service users for simplicity, humanity and security when interacting with public service agencies. This is particularly true in social services, where people are often seeking help at their most vulnerable moments. Agencies should be exploring how emerging technologies like VR might help create these sorts of experiences.

There is already a high demand for social services, which many agencies are struggling to meet. As this grows, social service leaders should look to embrace technology to augment the skills of their people. They should also look to deepen the public-private relationship by collaborating to deepen the talent pool and develop new models of care. Taken together, these steps could help relieve the pressure on the individuals involved and enable them to continue to deliver high levels of care as demand increases.  

Whilst the challenges of today might make it difficult to chart this long-term future, now could be the perfect opportunity. Agencies have shown they can adapt at speed in a crisis, this same agility could now be applied to delivering ongoing reinvention.