The social state

01 December 2021

The Demos/Capita research, using a nationally representative poll of 1,000 UK adults, found that a third (32%) of people feel there are fewer opportunities to make new relationships with others now than there were during the first lockdown, while only a quarter (23%) said there were more opportunities. This suggests that as we come out of the crisis mode of the pandemic, the British public could be finding it harder to make new connections and not easier.

The report also found that Brits want to hold relationships with the providers of public services and other service users. An overwhelming majority wants to be able to get to know the people who provide their local services (71%) and other services users (64%).

The Social State is calling for a system of relational public services that can bring together local communities and make it easier for people to build relationships with other users, the community at large and people who provide the services. Relational public services can improve outcomes by giving citizens more control and confidence to resolve their problems.

This report is the first as part of a major new research programme at Demos about reimagining public services. The project will build a credible policy agenda for 21st century public services with citizen experiences at the centre. Demos will be exploring in more depth three areas of public service: employment and back to work services, local government, and policing.

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive at Demos and author of The Social State, said: ‘We have seen many challenges emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the challenge of running our public services one of the most difficult and recognisable. Yet throughout the pandemic, particularly during the first lockdown, we saw communities come together and relationships strengthened at a time of crisis, on a scale we haven’t seen in generations – from providing food for those isolating to the new volunteers making a huge difference in the NHS.

She added: ‘They proved that strong relationships and community ties are not only hugely valuable for our wellbeing, but that they’re vital to our resilience and strength as a society. Our new research worryingly shows that these gains we’ve made in community relationships earlier in the pandemic are in danger of being lost. If we’re to build back stronger from the pandemic, we need to reimagine our public services for the 21st century as a way of strengthening our communities, relationships and social capital.’

Andy Start, chief executive officer for Capita Public Services, said: ‘Capita has its part to play in enabling local public service organisations to deliver better outcomes in two key areas: productivity and citizen experience. For councils and health care providers to implement relational services they need to introduce greater automation to create time for workers to foster and develop relationships, whilst also increasing productivity.

‘This automation would also aid in reducing administrative workload, whilst allowing for various data pools to be securely connected across agencies and ultimately, using AI and insight engines, provide a more comprehensive view of the citizen. In addition to the reduction of admin hours, this level of insight would allow public sector organisations and Government to focus on proactive interventions, thus investing now to prevent higher costs down the line.’

Mr Start added: ‘But technology is only one part of the relational services puzzle. The second part is the citizen experience – not just at the interface of service provision, but across the entire lived experience. Yes, we can help our clients co-design new service interfaces with their customers; however, we also believe there is a deeper level of experience that needs to be tackled. For example, the way we design our streets has a massive impact on our everyday lives: they provide places for younger people to call their own and create spaces for communities to come together and network across diverse demographics – all of which is vital.’

To get a free copy of the research report or find to out more, please email

You can download the report at

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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