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Plugging the Gap – A new Approach to Public Service Provision

The UK has experienced significant cuts to public services in recent years with more yet to come. If citizens are expected to 'do more' we are going to need new kinds of services to support their participation. Plugging the Gap explores how new forms of community engagement and social enterprise could help to ensure that the most vulnerable and poorest are not left behind.

Unemployment, decreased living standards, slow growth and a rapid contraction in public services and the role of the state have all been features of life under austerity. To begin to respond effectively to these challenges, we need to not only find new ways of doing things in the short term but also remain focused on our longer-term aspirations of helping to create resilient and healthy communities.

This series of papers addresses these questions and develops ideas for practical responses to the shrinking state and ongoing cuts to services. The project focuses on how local services, citizens, networks and community assets can be better deployed to plug the gap of a shrinking state, while also tackling longer term questions around the shape of future services and our role as citizens in delivering them. It seeks to generate debate and action among the RSA Fellowship and broader stakeholders and identify opportunities and barriers to innovation in austerity.

In the first paper, Families with Multiple Problems, Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, asks what can be done to better support vulnerable families with complex needs. 

In The Social Care Challenge, Jonathan Carr-West argues that many local authorities are not waiting for long-term decisions on funding to be decided but are already innovating in social care. 

And in Turning Strangers into Neighbours, Nicola Bacon, Director of Social Life, discusses the pressing need to develop low-cost ways to support those people living in places most affected by the collapse of local economies.