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  • Writer's pictureLuke Bevir

Looking ahead to 2023: MV’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing public services

As yet another year of surprises draws to a close, the Mutual Ventures team look ahead to 2023 and share their insights on the challenges and opportunities ahead for public services.

The scale of the challenges facing public services in this country are great. Rising demand, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis and lasting effects of Covid-19, financial pressures resulting from budget cuts and rising prices, and the impacts of a chronic workforce shortage, all tell a story of a system under pressure.

But it is far from all doom-and-gloom. From embedding Integrated Care Systems, to seeing through the Levelling Up agenda, to seizing on the recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, there is a real opportunity to provide better, more accessible services. and improve people's lives.

Two big themes stand out: the necessity for greater collaboration between public services and a desire to see more power in the hands of communities. How much life is in these trends is not yet clear but they both have the potential to have a substantial impact on how public services are delivered and their resilience in standing up to future challenges.

2023 will be the year when children’s services reform becomes real

Back in May 2022, we saw the publication of the Independent Review of Children's Social Care, ‘a once in a generation opportunity to reset children’s social care’. We expect a response at the start of 2023.

The consistent thread running through the Review is a need to focus on relationships as the solution to improving outcomes for vulnerable children, and to recalibrate a system that too often emphasises professionals and services above family and community. Making this happen is as much a culture change as it about nuts-and-bolts.

We have written previously about how the government’s response must include an effective people strategy, an understanding of different perspectives and input from service users, the involvement of different partners in delivery, and a willingness to prioritise despite a difficult environment for change.

The sector can expect more government money for transformation but day-to-day pressures will persist. In this context, implementing reform should be pursued as an immediate response as well as a long-term effort.

Questions remain around how some of the recommendations of the Care Review will be implemented, but the problems identified are accepted. For example, it is right to say a more collaborative approach to addressing problems in the market for social care placements is required. And there is a need for a concerted effort to reduce social worker caseloads and the number of agency staff.

Delivering the Care Review will be a significant undertaking, but this is a golden chance to make system-wide change for our society’s most vulnerable children. In 2023 the opportunity must be taken.

To hear more about our work on Children’s Services and our response to the Care Review get in touch with

Collaboration in the NHS will continue to accelerate, and we will start to see the positive impact on health inequalities

Up to now, the shift towards collaboration in the NHS has felt gradual, despite the many years of discussion and policy debate.

This shift was given an unintended boost during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, where necessity thrust providers together, forcing them to put aside any reservations and history of competing with each other.

Two years on and Integrated Care Systems (and their constituent ‘places’) are now established as the basis to bring together different NHS providers and local government to jointly deliver for local communities.

Collaborations between care organisations are becoming more formalised, building on NHS England’s requirements that acute and mental health trusts must be part of one or more Provider Collaboratives, and other providers should be.

Key questions that all collaboratives must address are: What is the new narrative for our local areas and the health of our communities? How will providers work together to tackle inequalities in population health? How can providers act as ‘anchor institutions’ and come together to benefit their communities more widely?

In 2023 there is an opportunity for more Provider Collaboratives led by community and primary care providers. This can only help in the NHS’s stated aim to rebalance the system away from hospitals to care closer to home.

This move towards collaboration must also occur in tandem with an increased focus on addressing health inequalities. We should expect to see this as a priority and the beginning of its impact of patient outcomes.

Government has provided the permission for collaboration to change how healthcare is provided for the better, but the power is now in the hands of local NHS leaders to establish meaningful and successful partnerships that deliver on the promise to patients.

To hear more about our work with the NHS and provider collaboration get in touch with

The government’s promise on Levelling Up through devolution will be put to the test

One of the first actions of the new Prime Minister was to re-commit to the Levelling Up agenda. A focus on regeneration and ‘place’ will continue to be an important theme, and in the very-near future we expect to hear the outcome of the much-anticipated Round 2 of the Levelling Up Fund.

A key element of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is making its way through parliament now, is a renewed focus on devolving power from Westminster. The promise of Levelling Up is that more power will be devolved to local areas, providing them with more control over budgets, transport, and skills. Following recent commitments to devolution in Cornwall, the North East and East Anglia, more than half of England is now subject to democratically-elected Mayors, which the government argues gives areas the tools they need to make better places.

Devolution must also mean power in the hands of local people. Recent thinking on what this means can be seen in New Local’s campaigning on ‘community power’, the concept of ‘double devolution’ from Red Wall Conservative MPs, and, Lisa Nandy’s call to ‘hand people power’ in her recent book All In: How We Build a Country That Works.

After years of discussion, 2023 will see the promise of devolution put to the test. Will government commit to giving real power to local areas, and will those areas find an effective way to empower communities? We wait to see.

To hear more about our work supporting local councils with Levelling Up get in touch with

A year where local district councils realise the potential of partnership

Many district councils are experiencing difficult headwinds: funding pressures threaten their financial sustainability, and shortages of experienced staff are putting pressure on their organisational resilience.

The impact of this includes councils looking to cut back on services and ‘non-essentials’, such as reducing their environmental services, less frequent waste collection, and squeezing leisure and parks budgets – all services that play an important role in everyone’s quality of life. Unfortunately, these pressures look set to get more intense in 2023.

One solution to these pressures is greater collaboration between district councils. In 2023 we may see increasing appetite to explore partnership opportunities.

By exploring opportunities for organisational and service level collaboration, the leaders of district councils have the opportunity to futureproof their organisations, and share learning, resources and capabilities. This will help to protect the services that communities and businesses rely on.

To hear more about our work with local councils on local place development get in touch with

The challenges facing public services show no sign of letting up. The solutions will not be simple or easy. But a commitment to reforms, focusing on collaboration, and shifting power to communities represent an opportunity to make meaningful change.

From everyone at Mutual Ventures, we wish you a restful Christmas and a happy new year. We look forward to working with you in 2023, whatever surprises it throws at us.


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