The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Services was established on 13 February 2020 to scrutinise issues that cut across different public services, to complement the Departmental focus of committee scrutiny in the House of Commons.
The Public Services Committee will focus its work on the transformation of public services, to ensure that they are meeting the needs of individuals and communities in the 21 Century.
The Committee will consider public services in the broadest possible sense – we will explore community-level initiatives and the role of the private, voluntary and charitable sectors in the delivery of public services.
Shortly after the establishment of the Committee, public services were presented with one of the gravest challenges of recent history – the outbreak of Covid-19. In our first inquiry, the Committee will examine what the experience of coronavirus can tell us about the future role, priorities and shape of public services. This short review of lessons for public services will inform later, broader work on public service reform.
The remit of the Public Services Committee will largely be limited to scrutiny of public service delivery in England. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, responsibility for public services generally rests with the devolved administrations. However, the Committee hopes to learn from public service best practice in the devolved jurisdictions, both to draw comparisons and apply lessons learnt.
Covid-19: an opportunity for public service reform?
The coronavirus crisis already represents the biggest shock to the UK’s economy and society since the Second World War. The loss of life and the disruption to communities across the country have been devasting, while the public health emergency and the resulting economic downturn have placed unprecedented pressures on our public services.
The months and years ahead – with demand for services likely to rise in the context of a significantly diminished economy – will present new challenges and difficult choices for services. The coronavirus outbreak requires a fundamental rethink of how public services respond to the needs of the communities that they serve.
The pandemic has already encouraged radical thinking in some areas of public policy. In recent weeks, we have seen the establishment of numerous community initiatives to support people during lockdown. These schemes have involved collaboration among community groups; the voluntary sector; the private sector; NHS and social care providers; the police; and local authorities and other services, to ensure that the needs of local communities are met.
However, although the pandemic has demonstrated what is possible, questions remain about whether more could have been done to prevent harm, whether the transformation seen in some service areas will remain once the crisis is over, and whether best practice will be shared with services that struggled during lockdown.
This inquiry will focus on four key areas: the integration of services; inequalities in access and outcome; the relationship between local and national services; and the role of business and the third sector – charities, volunteers and community groups – during coronavirus.
The questions set out below are intended to provide a framework for those who wish to offer their views. You need not answer all the questions, just those that are relevant.
Diversity comes in many forms, and hearing different perspectives means that Committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. They can undertake their role most effectively when they hear from a wide range of individuals, sectors or groups affected by a particular policy or piece of legislation. We encourage anyone with experience or expertise of the issues under investigation – particularly those working for frontline services – to share their views with the Committee, in the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.
We would also like to encourage anyone to get in touch who can support the Committee to take evidence from hard-to-reach groups and individuals with experience of accessing services during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Information on how to submit evidence is set out below. If you have any questions or require adjustments to enable you to respond, please contact the Committee team at HLPUBLICSERVICES@parliament.uk.
It is helpful if opinions are supported by factual evidence where appropriate. Comparisons with practice in the devolved administrations and other countries are particularly welcome.
The deadline for written evidence submissions is Monday 29 June 2020.
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