The future of UK public services

The Innovation Unit vision

Learning from 20 years of innovation in public services

We work with partners across children and families, mental health, health and care, justice and violence and education to create impact, reduce inequalities and transform systems. Over two decades, we have learnt a lot.

A General Election has been called, and the result will be largely decided by which party has the best solution for the range of challenges facing our creaking public services. Whether the question is about the future of prisons or the health service, below are the principles which should drive reform.

Get in touch with Matthew to work with us on making this vision a reality.

Design principles for public service reform: 

1. Start with outcomes

Create coherence and alignment through national missions, focused on outcomes for people and communities, that are meaningful for their daily lives. These should then inform and drive mission and purpose at different levels: city-regions, places and neighbourhoods. 

2. A place based approach 

Shot of a group of young businesspeople having a meeting in a modern office.

Devolve power, decision making and money – including control over spending decisions, capital investment, priorities and planning to local partnerships.

3. More power to people and communities 

a caregiver explains to a mentally handicapped woman how to mulch with straw in a raised bed full of bell pepper plants

Welcome cultures and service models that work with people and build their agency to manage their own goals and outcomes. Replace paternalism with structures that give communities greater voice, and say in how services are designed and delivered. 

4. Prevention first 

A person with a disability with a friend sitting on the grass of a public park in the city, talking and laughing

Move away from rationing demand by raising thresholds to working with people before their needs escalate, reach crisis or greater complexity, prioritising early intervention and prevention. 

5. An R&D infrastructure for short term improvement and long term innovation 

Group of people working

Develop a more plural research and development system not monopolised by government, that invests in both short term improvement and long term experimentation and innovation. 

6. Make decentralised markets work in the public interest 

Volunteers working in community food center

Regulate to cap profits, prevent rent seeking, improve pay and conditions, compete on quality rather than price, improve local governance, promote diversity on the supply side, and encourage innovation. 

7. Organic structural change 

Incentivise mergers, networks and partnership. These should be driven by local leaders not designed and imposed by top down reorganisation from Whitehall.

Get in touch with Matthew to work with us on making this vision a reality.


Key examples