Louise Downe

Government services aren’t done yet, so neither am I

In the wake of all of this month’s resignations (Tom, Ben, Russell, Leisa and Mike) it’s tempting to talk ‘why I’m staying’ at GDS.

To be honest though, I’d rather talk about what we’re doing, because as far as I’m concerned the work has just started.

It’s been a while I’ve written anything here, I’ve been busy.

Last year, Ben hired me to fix services at GDS, in that time I’ve realised just how we need to fix service design too.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Providing services to individuals and businesses makes up roughly 80% of the cost of government.

Of this 80%, around 60% is spent dealing with calls and casework. Most of it completely unnecessarily.

This money doesn’t go to giving benefits, or printing passports - it’s spent dealing with the fall out of millions of applications, renewals, and revocations made by users those who aren’t eligible, don’t actually need to do a thing, or do so in the wrong way.

Let’s be clear, this is not ‘user error’.

Government has haphazardly created ‘transaction’ after ‘transaction’ - licences, taxes and benefits that are not part of a viable service that a user can use successfully unaided.

We’ve helped government to digitise 25 of the largest of those transactions.

There are literally thousands left.

To fix those, we need to stop ‘digitising’ and do what it’s never done before. Build services as services.

I’ve spent nearly a year working with DVLA in Swansea on what this looks like. They’re now the first department to hire service designers (all the credit needs to go to them for doing that, it was a hard and brave decision).

Over the past three months I’ve also started to build a talented team of GDS service designers that will help other departments to do this.

Our first job will be to take the first step towards going wholesale (as Martha said) by building standardisable services - like licensing, ownership exchange and funding. We’ll will be merging transactions that are the same (there are currently 5 ways to ‘delegate responsibility’) and building new services that start with user needs.

It’ll be hard. There will be lots of noise, but that’s a good thing. If you fancy joining them, let me know.

In the meantime, thank you Tom, Ben, Russell, Leisa, Mike for making all of this possible.