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Peers launch first probe into lessons for public services from COVID-19

Peers have launched a new inquiry to ask what lessons for our public services can be learned from the coronavirus pandemic.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Services, set up to examine the transformation of public services to ensure that they are fit for the 21st century, will look into what the COVID-19 experience can tell us about their future role, priorities and shape. 

The inquiry will focus on key areas including:

  • Integration of services;
  • Inequalities in access and outcome;
  • Relationships between local and national services; and
  • The role of civil society (private sector, charities, volunteers and community groups) during the pandemic.

Baroness Armstrong, chair of the committee, said:

“COVID-19 has presented our public services with one of the gravest challenges in recent history, and we have seen heroic efforts from frontline staff to ensure our communities are supported during lockdown.

“However, the crisis has also highlighted some fundamental weaknesses in the design of public services, such as the lack of integration between health, social care and other services. The Committee will explore how the lessons from coronavirus can inform public service reform.”

The pandemic has already encouraged radical thinking in some areas, such as the establishment of numerous community initiatives to support people during lockdown – schemes which have seen collaboration across the voluntary sector, NHS and social care providers, police; local authorities and community services to ensure that the needs of local communities are met. 

The crisis has also demonstrated the ability of government to increase the capacity of public services quickly when necessary – as seen in the NHS.

Baroness Armstrong added:

“The pandemic has shown what's possible, but how can government and leaders ensure that the transformation seen in some services remain once the crisis is over?"

The committee is due to hold its first public evidence session on 3 June.

The committee's Call for Evidence is here.

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