TORONTO, June 1, 2021 /CNW/ - A new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) found that many Canadians have acquired significant new caregiving responsibilities at home during the pandemic, yet most are unaware of what social services are available to them.
The report, "Social Services: Lead with Impact," found that while more than half (58%) of Canadians surveyed said that the response of their social service agencies to the COVID-19 pandemic has been strong, the majority (92%) said they lack sufficient guidance on what social services they are eligible to access. This posed a challenge for half (50%) of Canadian respondents who have had significant new caregiving responsibilities at home during the crisis.
The report is based on two surveys: one of more than 7,000 citizens across 10 countries in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, including 501 Canadians, and another of 600 executives holding leadership positions within social services, employment, public pension and child welfare agencies in those same countries. The research sought citizens' views on the assistance they received from social services agencies during the pandemic and the views of leaders on their agency's response to the crisis.
The report identifies key strategies to enable agencies to manage the disruption caused by the pandemic and to transform how social services are delivered in the future. Strategies include the creation of new organizational and workforce processes, the deployment of new technologies and increased agency collaboration with citizens, community groups and ecosystem partners in the design and delivery of new and more personalized services.
"Comparing February 2020 with April 2021, the number of long-term unemployed was up by 171%, with 486,000 Canadians out of work for 27 weeks or longer, showing us that Canadians need social services more than ever," said Joel Marchildon, managing director in Accenture's Canadian Federal Public Service practice. "If anything, the pandemic has validated the need for personalized citizen services that are deployed in an efficient and targeted fashion. Meeting the expectations of Canadians now and in the future will require that Canadian governments rapidly study and adapt new delivery models that embrace the latest digital technologies."
The slow pace of change in government services that citizens have experienced was confirmed by the executives surveyed. While three in five (62%) said their agencies had seen a spike in demand from citizens for digital services during the pandemic, a similar number (59%) said their agency had struggled to stand-up new digital solutions and automate business processes in response to the crisis.
The research found that despite many agencies postponing investments in new technologies over the last year, technology is viewed by executives as vital to improving agency responsiveness and service accessibility for citizens. Most executives said their agencies will continue to invest in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cloud computing and workforce collaboration tools over the coming year.
As a result of the disruption and challenges experienced during the past year, most executives (82%) said they expect their organization's strategy and operations to look significantly different in the years ahead and recognize the need to introduce new services and delivery models, accelerate technology investments and work closer with community and ecosystem partners to enable change.
"Accessing social services shouldn't be stressful for Canadians and it doesn't have to be. Like the private sector, government services can be personalized when designed in collaboration for citizens and a modern workforce," Marchildon added. "To deliver better outcomes for Canadians and their governments alike, all stakeholders and ecosystem partners need to cooperate to reenvisage how social benefits are accessed and how the latest state-of-the-art technology can be used to efficiently deliver new offerings and services to those that need them most."
The research was based on two separate but related online quantitative surveys. The first—of 7,005 people in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. who had used a government-provided social service within the past two years—sought to capture citizen attitudes, perspectives and behaviours concerning social services provision and the response of social services providers to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second survey queried 662 executives (in C-suite roles such as agency directors, directors of IT, policy directors and function heads) who lead social services, employment, public pension and child welfare agencies in the same 10 countries.
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