The ODI submits evidence to the parliamentary inquiry on future-proofing the public sector workforce

Thu Oct 6, 2022
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We share our evidence submission to the House of Lords Public Services and Demographic Change Select Committee inquiry on ‘Designing a public services workforce fit for the future.’

Background

The House of Lords Public Services and Demographic Change Select Committee exists to consider public service provision in the light of demographic change. In January 2022, the Select Committee launched a new inquiry and call for evidence, Designing a public services workforce fit for the future

The terms of reference of the inquiry are as follows:

This major inquiry, ‘Designing a public services workforce fit for the future’, will explore how the workforce in public services should be transformed to meet new user needs in the 21st century. It will look at the challenges faced by staff in the public sector because of user demand that is increasing and changing rapidly. Drawing on the Committee’s established principles for public service reform, the inquiry will ask which innovative models have the potential to tackle those challenges, with a focus on reforming the training, planning and management of the workforce in public services.

ODI response

We submitted our evidence to the Public Services Select Committee in February 2022. You can read it on the inquiry website (HTML) or download the PDF

We argued that:

  • The UK’s data economy is crucial to the UK’s longer-term social and economic prosperity and influence as a global data and digital services hub and a world leader in AI, in line with the vision and ambition of the Integrated Review and the UK National AI Strategy.
  • It is important that UK public sector data capability and data culture plays an integral role in developing trusted and trustworthy data ecosystems across sectors and borders, with public sector responsibilities ranging from ‘hard’ interventions such as regulation of the private sector, to ‘soft’ influence as such leading by example.
  • The UK National Data Strategy argues that ‘every organisation is now a data organisation’: and the Covid-19 pandemic brought data into the centre of organisational decision-making across sectors as never before.
  • But we have seen clear gaps and needs in the public sector around understanding and mapping its own data initiatives; around identifying and understanding the limitations of digital tools or how to integrate them with non-digital approaches for the best outcomes; around considerations of equality and inclusion in digital public services and public sector data innovation; and around confidence and innovation for data sharing, data ethics, and data governance.
  • Key to this is the holistic concept of ‘data literacy’ as an important counterpoint to a narrow notion of ‘data skills’, where the latter is defined only as quantitative or numerical skills.  We consider data literacy to be ‘the ability to think critically about data in different contexts and examine the impact of different approaches when collecting, using and sharing data and information’.
  • We consider the holistic suite of data skills needed for this sort of data literacy to include skills such as building communities, service design, data innovation and change leadership – so that data projects are impactful and lead to the best social and economic outcomes for everyone.

Our evidence submission also provided more detailed information, selected from our ODI portfolio of projects, research, consultation responses and toolkits, listed here in reverse chronological order:

Next steps

The Select Committee published a report of its findings in July 2022; the government is expected to respond in October 2022.

If you’d like to know more about any of the resources that we highlighted in our evidence submission, you can reach the team on policy@theodi.org or on Twitter @ODIHQ