Monday 27 June 2022 – 13:00

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On 26 June 2021, the government launched the new unified Probation Service for England and Wales. This brought the management of medium- and low-risk offenders in-house and combined them with the public sector National Probation Service, which manages high-risk offenders. This was the fourth major restructuring of probation services in 20 years.

The transition was not expected to be easy. The 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) oversaw hundreds of thousands of cases, employed thousands of staff across hundreds of sites and used different operating models. They were run by six companies and scores of sub-contractors, with different processes, terms and conditions, and working cultures.

A year on from these changes, this event will explore how well the transition has gone and assess the key challenges and opportunities that still lie ahead.

Our panel will include:

  • Linda Neimantas, Head of Probation Inspection Programme at HM Inspectorate of Probation
  • Jim Barton, Executive Director, Probation Reform Programme at the Ministry of Justice
  • Suki Binning, Chief Social Worker at Seetec, and Executive Director at the Interventions Alliance

The event will be chaired by Nick Davies, Programme Director at the Institute for Government. 

@ifgevents #IFGprobation

Monday 27 June 2022 – 14:00
Start date/time: 
Monday, June 27, 2022 – 13:00

Original source – The Institute for Government

2 women looking at a laptop and mobile phone

GOV.UK is used by 17 million people every week, who need to find important information and support to help them through many life events. It’s a key part of the UK national infrastructure, and the backbone of how citizens interact with government.

As a monopoly on government information and services, we know how critical it is to be as accessible as possible for all users. In the UK, 1 in 5 people (almost 15 million) have a long-term illness, impairment or disability, so it’s critical GOV.UK works for everyone. This means we are continuously looking for ways to improve the site that so many users rely on.

To celebrate the 2022 Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), here’s some insight into the work the GOV.UK Accessibility team have been doing since last year to make things better for our users.

Recent successes

Component improvements

GOV.UK uses common components, which means if there is an accessibility issue in a component, we can tweak it and make those changes wherever that component is used. This means it’s quicker to make things accessible across a wide range of pages.

We’ve recently made tweaks to the Feedback and Accordion components to make them better:

  • Feedback improvements – if a user didn’t have CSS or Javascript enabled, it was difficult to provide feedback on GOV.UK so we used progressive enhancement to improve the accessibility and durability of the HTML version before adding CSS/Javascript on top
  • Accordion improvements – we made it clearer for users to understand how to interact with the feature, and made improvements to help those using magnification software or screen readers; these changes were brought into the GOV.UK Design System, improving components across government services too

These changes can have large impacts across the whole site and beyond, so we’re committed to making similar improvements like this across our components.

Govspeak Converter

GOV.UK’s content is written in a markup language (think HTML) called Govspeak. Publishers, until recently, had to write their content in Govspeak directly into publishing tools, meaning lots of manual effort to transfer draft content (from documents) into Govspeak.

This could create various issues, such as skipped headings, and was time-intensive for publishers. In December 2021, we created and launched the Govspeak Converter, which allows publishers to copy and paste text directly from emails and documents, with all formatting automatically applied. Publishers could now work on content separately in documents, and then convert that straight over to Govspeak, with a preview to see how this would appear on GOV.UK.

This means that not only is HTML content easier for departments to create (or convert from inaccessible formats), but we can also make sure that formatting issues are corrected before going through content review processes – meaning overall, more accessible content on GOV.UK.

Highlights of current work

Auditing accessibility issues

GOV.UK has previously audited the accessibility of the site in order to know what needs to be fixed. At the start of 2022, we launched our most recent audit, where we used the help of the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) to find accessibility issues with a representative sample of GOV.UK pages.

From the issues raised, we plan to do both manual and automated searches through other pages on GOV.UK to find further instances. Doing that will help us understand the scale of each issue, what the underlying cause is, and whether it’s something that GOV.UK teams can fix internally, or whether it’s an issue that publishers across government will have to change. We hope to have these latter issues to share with publishers in the coming months.

Regular audits like this will help us, over time, to remove any barriers that users may face when interacting on GOV.UK. The early indications from this audit have shown how our efforts have improved things since the previous audit.

Requesting an accessible format

Government has some way to go before all published content is accessible, and some formats such as Braille, British Sign Language and Easy Read can’t easily be provided in HTML form. So many users will need to request an accessible version of a document.

The existing process requires users to email departments with a pre-filled template stating what they need and why. We’ve known for a long time that this isn’t a user-friendly journey – particularly for users that don’t have email clients set up on their device. It also creates issues for departments, as due to the confusing journey, users can sometimes raise requests that are not about access needs, but instead about other user needs.

The GOV.UK team has been working on a new and improved HTML form, where users can select the format they require, and provide contact information for where it can be sent to. This new process is not only more accessible and user-friendly, but the hope is that we can make it clearer who and what this process is for, meaning departments can focus on providing accessible formats more quickly and efficiently to those that need it.

We’re in the early stages of iterating and testing with some departments, but we hope to start extending this pilot to more departments during 2022. If you work on a team providing these formats, and are interested in being part of it, email govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk.

Looking ahead

As you can see, we’ve been working hard on GOV.UK this year to make the site more accessible – but we’ve still got a long way to go. We will continue to make changes to our components and formats on GOV.UK, making it easier for publishers to create accessible content; produce and respond to accessibility audits; and improve the experience for those requesting accessible formats.

Get involved

GAAD raises awareness across industries and the world of the challenges that many users have in accessing critical information, and how vital it is to break down those barriers to access.

It’s also an opportunity to take stock of the work we’ve done, and to commit ourselves to learning more about accessibility, both within GOV.UK and from the work happening across government departments and other organisations. By doing so, we can help build truly accessible products, and support that work across the rest of government too.

Subscribe to Inside GOV.UK to keep up to date with our work

Original source – Inside GOV.UK

2 women looking at a laptop and mobile phone

GOV.UK is used by 17 million people every week, who need to find important information and support to help them through many life events. It’s a key part of the UK national infrastructure, and the backbone of how citizens interact with government.

As a monopoly on government information and services, we know how critical it is to be as accessible as possible for all users. In the UK, 1 in 5 people (almost 15 million) have a long-term illness, impairment or disability, so it’s critical GOV.UK works for everyone. This means we are continuously looking for ways to improve the site that so many users rely on.

To celebrate the 2022 Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), here’s some insight into the work the GOV.UK Accessibility team have been doing since last year to make things better for our users.

Recent successes

Component improvements

GOV.UK uses common components, which means if there is an accessibility issue in a component, we can tweak it and make those changes wherever that component is used. This means it’s quicker to make things accessible across a wide range of pages.

We’ve recently made tweaks to the Feedback and Accordion components to make them better:

  • Feedback improvements – if a user didn’t have CSS or Javascript enabled, it was difficult to provide feedback on GOV.UK so we used progressive enhancement to improve the accessibility and durability of the HTML version before adding CSS/Javascript on top
  • Accordion improvements – we made it clearer for users to understand how to interact with the feature, and made improvements to help those using magnification software or screen readers; these changes were brought into the GOV.UK Design System, improving components across government services too

These changes can have large impacts across the whole site and beyond, so we’re committed to making similar improvements like this across our components.

Govspeak Converter

GOV.UK’s content is written in a markup language (think HTML) called Govspeak. Publishers, until recently, had to write their content in Govspeak directly into publishing tools, meaning lots of manual effort to transfer draft content (from documents) into Govspeak.

This could create various issues, such as skipped headings, and was time-intensive for publishers. In December 2021, we created and launched the Govspeak Converter, which allows publishers to copy and paste text directly from emails and documents, with all formatting automatically applied. Publishers could now work on content separately in documents, and then convert that straight over to Govspeak, with a preview to see how this would appear on GOV.UK.

This means that not only is HTML content easier for departments to create (or convert from inaccessible formats), but we can also make sure that formatting issues are corrected before going through content review processes – meaning overall, more accessible content on GOV.UK.

Highlights of current work

Auditing accessibility issues

GOV.UK has previously audited the accessibility of the site in order to know what needs to be fixed. At the start of 2022, we launched our most recent audit, where we used the help of the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) to find accessibility issues with a representative sample of GOV.UK pages.

From the issues raised, we plan to do both manual and automated searches through other pages on GOV.UK to find further instances. Doing that will help us understand the scale of each issue, what the underlying cause is, and whether it’s something that GOV.UK teams can fix internally, or whether it’s an issue that publishers across government will have to change. We hope to have these latter issues to share with publishers in the coming months.

Regular audits like this will help us, over time, to remove any barriers that users may face when interacting on GOV.UK. The early indications from this audit have shown how our efforts have improved things since the previous audit.

Requesting an accessible format

Government has some way to go before all published content is accessible, and some formats such as Braille, British Sign Language and Easy Read can’t easily be provided in HTML form. So many users will need to request an accessible version of a document.

The existing process requires users to email departments with a pre-filled template stating what they need and why. We’ve known for a long time that this isn’t a user-friendly journey – particularly for users that don’t have email clients set up on their device. It also creates issues for departments, as due to the confusing journey, users can sometimes raise requests that are not about access needs, but instead about other user needs.

The GOV.UK team has been working on a new and improved HTML form, where users can select the format they require, and provide contact information for where it can be sent to. This new process is not only more accessible and user-friendly, but the hope is that we can make it clearer who and what this process is for, meaning departments can focus on providing accessible formats more quickly and efficiently to those that need it.

We’re in the early stages of iterating and testing with some departments, but we hope to start extending this pilot to more departments during 2022. If you work on a team providing these formats, and are interested in being part of it, email govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk.

Looking ahead

As you can see, we’ve been working hard on GOV.UK this year to make the site more accessible – but we’ve still got a long way to go. We will continue to make changes to our components and formats on GOV.UK, making it easier for publishers to create accessible content; produce and respond to accessibility audits; and improve the experience for those requesting accessible formats.

Get involved

GAAD raises awareness across industries and the world of the challenges that many users have in accessing critical information, and how vital it is to break down those barriers to access.

It’s also an opportunity to take stock of the work we’ve done, and to commit ourselves to learning more about accessibility, both within GOV.UK and from the work happening across government departments and other organisations. By doing so, we can help build truly accessible products, and support that work across the rest of government too.

Subscribe to Inside GOV.UK to keep up to date with our work

Original source – Inside GOV.UK


A brilliant new post which cuts through the fluff of those currently dissing the merits of homeworking.

by Jill Spurr

Perhaps we’ve been working at home for so long now, we’ve forgotten those office ‘characters’… the one who always offers to make an extended round of hot drinks even though it takes ages… the one who talks about the football result from last night for a good thirty minutes several times a day… the one who just pops off to see a colleague about something and is gone until lunchtime… takes ages over that report you thought was quite straightforward… checks their phone eleventy-billion times a day… flicks their screen over when you’re near because they’ve been Googling new jobs…doesn’t flick their screen over from their job search because frankly, they don’t care anymore…

We may have forgotten them, but the disengaged have always been there.

Working from home was a literal lifeline during lockdown. Apart from reducing the risk of us transmitting Covid to each other (and I speak as someone who constantly had sniffles and bugs when I was office-based), it enabled people to manage childcare and other responsibilities, while maintaining momentum in work under the most difficult and worrying circumstances in recent memory.

Home was, quite simply, the stable foundation from which we have collectively pushed, pulled and pummelled the country to this point, where we are transitioning from pandemic to endemic.

A year ago, as we yoyoed between lockdown and limited liberty, publication after publication ran articles on the opportunity in the pandemic and choosing – wisely – between what of the past we wished to keep, and what was an opportunity to do things differently, better, more sustainably and in keeping with our environmental ambitions. When we finally emerged, it would be to a brave(ish), new(ish) world.

Yet now, after two years of overwhelming evidence that working outside of the rigid 9-5 desk-a-thon can yield benefits, there is new rhetoric that people can’t be trusted if they aren’t in the office. It’s like the coffee waitress, football fan and the ‘only here till someone offers me a job’ colleague are somehow deterred from their work avoidance by the presenteeism of their managers – when in reality, it’s quite the opposite that is true. It’s that lack of trust, the inability to treat employees as functioning adults, that contributes to a culture that destroys the will for people to deliver. And that culture lives in the office and follows us home.

I have a theory that the people who use their platform to sagely describe how those working from home are eating their body weight in Cathedral City one thimbleful at a time or are taking to the garden with a glass of Prosecco because it’s the warmest day of the year so far, are doing so with absolute conviction that it’s true – because that’s exactly what they would do themselves. You will always get your Minimum Efforters, but they manifest wherever they are. They are different entirely from the disengaged, sloping off to the staff kitchen to make a solitary coffee for themselves, and to grab another snick of someone else’s Red Leicester (they’ll never notice…).

But for most of us who work in an agile way, or who are self-employed from home, the concept that work is something we do, not somewhere we go, has been a game-changer, creating a culture that allows us to thrive. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but neither is being office-centric. Choice is empowering, so let those of us who choose to work flexibly do so without people projecting their own poor work ethic in our direction.

On a professional level, the ability to work remotely means that we can appoint the best people to create a dynamic team regardless of where they live. And where I work, we certainly have, from the northeast to the southwest. 

On a more personal level, working from home means I’m happier and healthier. The job I love and the life I love aren’t pulling me in opposite directions.  

My daily stresses have gone. I don’t have to juggle finding a suitable parking spot for my long-wheel-based van, which can be like manoeuvring a boat in a bathtub at the best of times. I don’t have to factor in time before work to prepare lunch and then spend my precious break time hitting the shops for something appealing to eat while my cheese and pickle roll remains in the fridge – at home, forgotten in my rush to leave on time. It’s apparently stereotyping, but yes, whacking a wash on while I make a cuppa is an enormously helpful way to manage my time more effectively.

Being at home with my dogs is good for my mental health, even if one does occasionally get stuck in the Kallax shelving of my home office (don’t ask). They are less distracting than human colleagues; they sleep, pop out to the garden when I take a break, and occasionally show a little interest in the screen I’m talking to. Having my frayed and wobbly eldest dog snoring at my feet each day as he potters towards the inevitable fate of a 14-year-old dog is something precious beyond measure – time, and memories, are truly life’s greatest gifts. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to spend more time where and with whom it matters most, so if that means allowing staff to be available for the school run, so be it. The employee will benefit, so the business will benefit.

I have more restful break periods yet get more done. I’m not rushing around trying to fit the things I love to do, the things I need to do and the things I have to do into the same 24 hours as everyone else has and failing miserably to hit the balance (or at least feeling that way).

And yes, sometimes I eat cheese. I like it.

When I do go into the office, I’m more appreciative of the connection from being with colleagues. It’s refreshing, rather than stressful, even when the traffic is a nightmare – not least because I know I don’t have to queue in the traffic again tomorrow, and the day after that, and…

Working flexibly is also a reasonable adjustment. It levels up – people with disabilities or care responsibilities can be comfortably accommodated and work equably, particularly when they have choice around where, when and how they work.

When we speak about creating engagement with a company, what we mean is that the employee feels part of the whole; that they see, understand and value their place there. It is much, much easier to have that sense of belonging when the work structure isn’t at odds with how you want to live – yes, work-life balance.

A culture that empowers the individual to be the best version of themself, and have the accountability that comes with it, is what makes a good job into a great job. While the work environment contributes to the whole, it doesn’t compensate for a lack of emotional intelligence, even when it offers zingy interior design and free fruit once a week. Productivity is the consequence of culture, and nothing destroys culture – and productivity – quicker than a lack of trust.

So, if your employees aren’t productive, maybe you need to look closer to home.  

Jill Spurr is head of communications and marketing at Affinity Trust. You can say hello on Twitter at @dreamworkbc

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Original source – comms2point0

As part of our regular look at how we’re performing, we also think about the impact we’re making on society. It’s one of the main things that motivates us to come to work at dxw.

When we became employee owned last year, we committed ourselves to running the company in the interests of the people we build and run services for, as well as our staff, by writing that into our deeds.  It’s really important to us and our Board of Trustees that we keep delivering on our mission – to create public services that improve lives.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the work we’ve been doing in the past few months and the difference it’s making. It’s down to a great team effort, working together with people in government and beyond.

Supporting the most vulnerable people

Through our work with Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS), we’re helping prevent people leaving prison and ending up homeless and living on the streets.

Approved premises are the places people go when they leave prison and they’re a critical part of the justice system. We’ve been working on an approved premises alpha to improve how people are found accommodation and support the management of beds.

Advice for anyone who needs it

Citizens Advice describes its mission as, “giving people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward – whoever they are, and whatever their problem.”

This quarter, dxw teams worked both on technical projects like migrating to a new publishing platform and provided in-depth analysis to policy teams to help them with high level strategy.

Citizens Advice publishes all sorts of content for people in need, but this is much more than just a publishing project. The data generated by this content provides rich insight for policy makers to understand the problems people are facing right now, in the face of the biggest squeeze on household income in decades.

Making sense of the planning system

Working with the policy team at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), we brought together a single view of how the constituent parts of the planning system are connected. We showed how the system operates from the perspective of its users and where the main risks are to achieving successful planning reform.

Thanks to our work, changes to the planning system can now be considered in terms of their impact on the system as a whole. Policy makers can make more considered changes that will work for those operating the system, and the communities that depend on it.

Working with schools

Schools are the bedrock of our communities and this quarter saw us win our biggest contract yet to work with the Department for Education (DfE) again, on a number of projects over the next couple of years.

Our work will have an impact on schools and pupils. We’re in mobilisation mode at the moment and we’ll see this work ramp up in the coming months.

Opening up data in the legal system

The National Archives is one of the world’s leading digital archives and, in the last quarter, we worked with them to build and launch a brand new service to publish court judgments.

Anyone, from members of the public, to legal professionals and publishers can now easily search for court judgments on any device. The data is machine-readable and available under open source licence.

Dr Natalie Byrom, Director of Research at The Legal Education Foundation, told GOV.UK:

“The launch of the new judgments service at The National Archives is a hugely significant step for open justice. For the first time, the retention and preservation of judgments from courts and tribunals in England and Wales is guaranteed under primary legislation, as is the right for the public to obtain access to these documents.”

Shipping, iterating and improving

We worked on another piece of vital digital infrastructure with Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) developing a private beta of a register of regulated professions.

In short, this service means that professional qualifications in everything from healthcare, education, and the legal profession can be recognised in law. This service replaces an existing EU database and will be a critical foundation in any future overseas trade deal.

Also with BEIS, we continued to iterate the Report Overseas Development Assistance (RODA) service, which tracks UK overseas aid spending helping some of the most deprived communities in the world.

Vital information available 24/7

dxw teams also continue to operate and support critical national infrastructure like the NHS England site. As we emerge from the pandemic, supporting our NHS has never been more important and I’m proud of the part dxw plays in this.

Well done and thank you to everyone who’s been involved in this work.

The post How we’re making a difference on things that matter appeared first on dxw.

Original source – dxw

Before joining LAA Digital, I worked in the Higher Education sector teaching Computer Science at a Midlands University. It wasn’t something I’d planned or aspired to, but I fell in love with the role and the opportunity to shape the lives of future generations. I put in countless hours to ensure marking was finished on time and frequently gave up weekends to help run open days and events. However, this all changed during the pandemic.

The transition to online learning was relatively well managed, and I was determined to ensure the students still had the best experience, so I invested in a green screen and professional camera. However, with more to do than ever before, and the demands of the role continuing to increase, eventually… I burnt out.

The passion and motivation I’d had were gone, but it took a while for me to acknowledge this as I’d always prided myself on my mental fortitude and work ethic. I talked to friends and family, who were extremely supportive, and I began to ask myself – Is this really what I want?

I’d entered HE thinking it would be the perfect role to continue my personal development. Ironically, when you’re spending all your time preparing material and marking work, there isn’t a lot of time left over for learning. I eventually came to the conclusion that software development is my true passion, having enjoyed creating new assignments or problem sets for students, times when I could really get my hands dirty.

Turning Point

However, I had trouble letting go. I felt responsible for the students in my care and the teaching material I’d developed. How could I leave all of this behind? Was I good enough? Would anyone want to hire me? Then, personal tragedy struck. I lost a dear friend in a motorcycle accident at the age of 28. Even now almost a year on, I’m still not sure if I’ve fully come to terms with his passing. He always lived life to the fullest, and it gives me great solace knowing that he died doing something he loved. He made me realise that life is too short to spend it being unhappy, so I began job hunting and eventually, something caught my eye.

LAA Digital Team

LAA Digital Team were advertising development roles nationwide, touting a strong commitment to L&D and an opportunity to work on public facing systems. So I buried my doubts and applied for the position. I’ve been with LAA Digital for around 7 months now and am content to say It’s everything I hoped it would be, and more!

I’d imagined the civil service as an old, outdated, behind the times employer, but now realise how wrong I was. I’m routinely utilising modern tools and technologies, my technical knowledge continues to reach new heights, and I’m contributing to something valuable. They also emphasise the importance of feedback with fortnightly surveys and opportunities for teams to meet the senior management team, who genuinely want LAA Digital to be the best place to work.

I work in the Crime apps team who develop and maintain the software that drives the criminal legal aid process. Right now, our main focus is centred around modernisation, and migrating large parts of our legacy estate via the development of new microservices, allowing us to take advantage of modern technologies and tooling. Some of our software is decades old, so it’s exciting to be involved in these efforts, which will undoubtedly improve the experience of our stakeholders when applying for legal aid.

Continuous development

One of the best things about LAA Digital is their commitment to L&D. Funding is available to invest in conferences, online learning platforms, certifications etc, and I’ve been able to make a strong contribution to my team. Everyone I work with is wonderful and genuinely wants to deliver quality software, and we have top notch equipment and development resources available to support us to do that.

I took a leap of faith, and I’m so glad I did. If you’re considering new horizons, my advice is – do it. We only regret the opportunities we don’t take.

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

Tuesday 7 June 2022 – 12:30

The Institute for Government is delighted to welcome Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to place the NHS under huge strain, Wes Streeting will discuss with Bronwen Maddox, Director of the Institute for Government, how Labour would tackle waiting list backlogs, address workforce problems and reform the social care system. He will also examine the lessons the NHS should learn from the pandemic.

Wes Streeting has been the Member of Parliament for Ilford North since May 2015. He has served as Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Shadow Minister for Schools, Shadow Secretary of State for Child Poverty and, since November 2021, in his current position as Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

#IfGWesStreeting

Tuesday 7 June 2022 – 13:30
Start date/time: 
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 – 12:30

Original source – The Institute for Government

The government needs to tackle incoherent policy making if it is to meet its net zero target.

This report highlights a series of decisions where ministers seem to have undermined their own climate objectives, including on the Cumbria coal mine, roadbuilding, cutting air passenger duty on domestic flights, and boosting UK oil and gas production.

Several organisations have called for a “net zero test” to ensure ministerial decisions are compatible with the long-term climate commitment. But this report, which examines the experience of using policy tests in other areas like equality, argues that while such a test could be helpful it would not be sufficient to prevent ministers rationalising away decisions that seem to undermine wider government objectives.

It recommends how the government could develop a useable and useful net zero test – starting on a voluntary basis to aid to policy development and, if it proves useful, becoming a statutory duty over time. But it also argues that the government should follow up its proposals on “embedding net zero” across Whitehall departments, and calls on ministers to urgently publish the emissions reductions they expect to achieve through particular policies. This will be vital to proper scrutiny and keeping departments on track.

The report also calls on the government to:

  • ensure that any policy decision with a significant impact on its ability to stick to the net zero pathway is subject to collective cabinet committee decision making
  • produce assessments alongside budgets and spending reviews of the impact on its ability to deliver the net zero target
  • consider creating a new independent function or body charged with forecasting the emissions impact of policies and other changes in the economy. This could sit between the OBR and the Climate Change Committee, following a model used in Denmark.

Original source – The Institute for Government

Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister for government efficiency and Brexit opportunities, recently wrote to his cabinet colleagues asking them by 24 June to identify public bodies that could be merged or closed.[i] He has also, along with the prime minister, gone on the warpath against the Passport Office and DVLA, threatening privatisation in response to delays in services.[ii]

It was in this context that the Cabinet Office launched its new public bodies review programme. Rees-Mogg’s foreword to the review guidance concluded: “I know departments and their public bodies will welcome this opportunity to ensure they are match fit.” [iii]

The public bodies review programme improves on previous iterations, but is not revolutionary

This review programme is strikingly similar to its predecessor, the 2015–20 “tailored reviews”, but with a few welcome changes. External reviewers will bring fresh challenge to priority reviews, although they must be seen to be impartial. A commitment to review both sides of the relationship between department and public body is important. The “self-assessment model” that will determine whether a full review of each body is needed will aid prioritisation – although scores will be aggregated based on the answers to many incommensurable questions and public bodies will fear that decision makers may follow these scores blindly (they should not).

Some fault lines inherent in the predecessor programme remain. Notwithstanding provisions for external oversight, implementation is delegated to departments who will to some extent be marking their own homework. Reviews are still detailed exercises that will assess public bodies against a lot of discrete requirements. A clear focus on what matters most will be required.

Rees-Mogg’s political objectives go beyond what the reviews should be expected to achieve

The substance of the review programme involves evaluating the efficacy, governance, accountability and efficiency of existing bodies – exploring such questions as whether a body has a clear complaints procedure, mitigates fraud risk effectively, makes an induction available to new board members, or has specific and measurable annual objectives.

These things matter, but can generally be addressed by public body management and departmental sponsors. It is possible – and envisaged – that reviews might identify significant failings, in response to which bodies might need to be restructured or abolished, but such radical change is not the primary target of a routine review process. Questions of whether government should provide a service at all, or whether a public body is the best way to provide it, are of a different order. Rees-Mogg’s discussion of mergers and closures raises these wider questions – but, unhelpfully, it does so before the Cabinet Office’s public bodies strategy, which would be a more appropriate and systematic vehicle for them, has been developed.

Distinguishing the review from wider political debates would enhance both

While it is perhaps unsurprising that Rees-Mogg’s foreword – with its focus on abolishing unnecessary bodies, minimising functions and returning powers to ministers – sits uneasily with the review programme itself, the juxtaposition is potentially damaging. The aims Rees-Mogg identifies are more relevant to his consultation with cabinet colleagues than to the review programme. Conflating the two risks imbuing the programme with a sense of existential threat for the public bodies involved and distracting from the substantive work of actually improving day-to-day performance.

Rees-Mogg’s stated aim to save 5% on average through the review process – a bigger ask than it sounds – could also discourage public bodies and departments from putting forward opportunities for improvement (many of which would come at a price, at least in the short term). Such opportunities do not seem to be a priority. Indeed, the phrase “Brexit opportunities”, though part of Rees-Mogg’s new ministerial title, does not appear anywhere in the substance of the guidance. It is also unclear where opportunities to increase resilience by learning from the pandemic might feature.

Rees-Mogg should now clearly decouple his interest in what services could be abolished, merged or transferred to the private sector from the more day-to-day aspects of the public bodies review programme. He should, in short, lower the stakes. He should also seek proposals for improvement, independently of his cost-saving objective, during the reviews.

Separately, determining the future role and scope of public bodies – and whether the significant costs of creating, merging or abolishing them are worth incurring – requires creative thinking that goes beyond the sort of ideas that will be elicited by a letter requesting cuts. Whether through the development of a public bodies strategy or through Rees-Mogg’s accelerated process, the government has yet to show that it can think dispassionately about these questions without pre-judging the outcome.

 

[i] Malnick E, ‘Quangos face the axe under Jacob Rees-Mogg’s cost-cutting plan’, The Telegraph, 23 April 2022, www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/04/23/quangos-could-shut-merged-jacob-rees-mogg-cost-cutting-plan/

[ii] Rees-Mogg J, ‘The only place to fine-tune Whitehall’s Rolls-Royce is in the office’, The Mail on Sunday, 23 April 2022, www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-10747231/JACOB-REES-MOGG-place-fine-tune-Whitehalls-Rolls-Royce-office.html; BBC, ‘Boris Johnson threatens to privatise Passport Office’, BBC News, 26 April 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-61233206

[iii] Cabinet Office, ‘Guidance on the undertaking of Reviews of Public Bodies’, Gov.uk, 26 April 2022, www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-bodies-review-programme/guidance-on-the-undertaking-of-reviews-of-public-bodies

Original source – The Institute for Government

Since it was founded in 2014, Policy Lab’s mission has been to explore the cutting edge of policy design practice: to radically improve policymaking through design, innovation and people-centred approaches. Back then, applying design thinking to a policy challenge was a very new and different way to frame, research and solve policy problems. Today these methods have been adopted way beyond our team. User centred design, service design and systems thinking are now part of the latest Policy Professions Standards and there are teams across the civil service pursuing these methods. 

Design thinking continues to permeate our work but, over the last year we have been scanning the horizon to identify the next wave of innovative methods that could improve the way policy is made, tested and delivered.

12 new methods for policymaking

Today we are launching a set of virtual cards which describe 11 experimental methods and approaches which we think have the potential to shift how policy is developed, in radically different ways. The last one is blank because our horizon scanning work for policymaking is an ongoing process and we expect to discover more new methods.

Picture showing a set of virtual cards which describe 11 experimental methods and approaches which Policy Lab think have the potential to shift how policy is developed, in radically different ways. The 11 cards are: superforcasting, serious games, legislative theatre, engaging through the metaverse, digital twins, bodystorming, moral imaginings, decentralised autonomous organisations, art in policy, citizen assemblies, regenerative design.

Policy Lab’s experimental methods cards

Some of these methods, like serious games, are already gaining ground in a policy context – we’ve included them because we think they have the potential to be used more widely across government. For example, Policy Lab worked with the Maritime Autonomous Regulation Lab (MARLab) during 2019 and 2020 to develop a serious game that explored the future of maritime regulation. 

Legislative theatre first emerged in Brazil in the 1970s, with the aim to inspire and create social change and it has recently been spearheaded in the UK through work at Greater Manchester Authority and Haringey Council to tackle policy issues related to homelessness. 

Other methods draw on expertise and technologies used in different sectors. For example Formula One uses digital twins to identify opportunities for improvement and efficiency using data. Similarly, the world of art has long mastered the ability to engage, inspire and provoke, something which Stephen’s recent blog explores, reflecting on 6 effects of art in policy.  

Some of these experimental policy design method cards may provoke and encourage us to ask big questions: 

  • Is there a role for the metaverse in policymaking? 
  • Should policymakers consider the needs of future generations? 
  • Could Decentralised Autonomous Organisations, DAOs, transform how the government funds communities?

Over a short series of blogs, we will be introducing these new experimental methods in more detail. As we start to introduce them in our work, we are excited to see what we will learn about how the policy system could adopt these approaches. We hope some, if not all, of the methods might make it into the Policy Profession Standards of the future. As Matthew ‘Syed said in his book, Rebel Ideas: there was once a time when adding wheels to a suitcase seemed absurd. 

We hope these methods will spark your curiosity to ask what more we could all be doing to change the way policy is designed and developed. 

Join the experimentation

The next stage of transforming how policy is made starts here, with all of us.

We are keen to hear about your own experiences. If you’ve trialled any of these methods, or have come across other examples where they’re being used, it could inform how we test them in practice so we’d love to hear from you – please get in touch

Something missing? As mentioned, the twelfth card in our pack is blank to leave space for new ideas – share your suggestions with us for other methods which you think are important to try by leaving a comment below, emailing us or tagging us on Twitter

And if you’re keen to trial any of these methods with us in your policy area, contact Sanjan Sabherwal, Head of Innovation & Design at Policy Lab. 

Original source – Policy Lab