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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010: Section 112(1): Guidance on Duty of User Focus for Listed Scrutiny Authorities



Identify users

2.1 Listed authorities should have a clear, written description of who they consider to be a service user. The people for whom scrutinised services are provided will be the key user group in each sector. Listed authorities will be best placed to judge on a sector-by-sector basis who is in this key group. However, listed authorities should be aware that the definition of "user" provided in section 112(4) of the Act also includes potential users, people who act on the behalf of service users and people with a direct interest in the provision of the service or the scrutiny of it.

Involve users in scrutiny governance

2.2 To ensure ongoing success in driving continuous improvement in user focus, listed authorities should have in place a user involvement strategy which should be publicly available. Development of the strategy should involve users and it should make clear:

a) the listed authority's role;

b) who the listed authority considers to be by a service user;

c) a commitment from the listed authority to involve users at all levels and in scrutiny activities;

d) how users can expect to engage with the listed authority;

e) how the listed authority promotes opportunities to become involved to service users; and

f) the listed authority's policy on any remuneration to users for their involvement.

2.3 Where possible, service users should be involved in the governance mechanisms and processes of listed authorities to ensure that organisations take full account of the user perspective in all of their activities.

2.4 Listed authorities with a Board may, for example, consider including a service user or, where more appropriate, a user representative as a non-executive member. Listed authorities should also consider establishing a forum for service users which has a clear remit to feed directly to the Board or to the Chief Executive or Chief Inspector, as appropriate, on strategic or corporate issues affecting the listed authority.

Involve users in the design of scrutiny

2.5 Listed authorities should engage directly with service users as early as possible when developing future plans of activity.

2.6 Listed authorities should involve service users in the design of relevant scrutiny. Service users should be consulted in the design stage or be represented directly in the decision making process - perhaps through their presence on a Board or through other ways such as being represented through a relevant forum.

2.7 Listed authorities should consult or involve service users in the evaluation of scrutiny, to ensure the user experience and user satisfaction is taken directly into account when scrutiny is being evaluated in order to inform any redesign.

Use feedback from users to inform scrutiny

2.8 In targeting their scrutiny activity, listed authorities should ensure that they routinely take into account the feedback which service users give to service providers. This feedback may include findings from user surveys, user groups or discussion sessions undertaken by service providers as a means of directly hearing the views of users.

2.9 To help inform assessments of services, listed authorities should also engage directly with service users where appropriate through accessible meetings, workshops, networking events or information sessions. User feedback derived through analysis of complaints will also help listed authorities to focus on areas of concern to service users.

2.10 Listed authorities should work with relevant service providers and complaints authorities such as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to ensure that mechanisms such as those described in paragraphs 2.8 and 2.9 are in place which enable them to access the type of user feedback which can then be used to influence scrutiny focus and service improvement.

Involve users in carrying out scrutiny

2.11 Listed authorities should involve users in carrying out scrutiny. For example, listed authorities should consider engaging service users or user representatives as "lay assessors" (the appropriate title for this type of role is a matter for each listed authority), where appropriate, and should consider establishing user panels to provide evidence and views prior to inspections and then to validate or comment on scrutiny reports as appropriate.

2.12 Listed authorities should engage appropriately with service users - recognising the need to use a wide range of communication and engagement techniques which meet the needs of the full range of service users.

Make reports on scrutiny clear and accessible

2.13 Listed authorities should work together to devise common language and gradings to ensure that service users and others with an interest in any service can more easily understand assessments and reports. Common language and grading is particularly important for those users interested in a scrutinised service, such as those provided by local government which are subject to scrutiny by more than one of the listed authorities.

2.14 Reports should be written in plain language and in a style which is appropriate for service users, recognising that some reports need to include technical or complex sections. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, listed authorities should also provide a short, plain English summary of their key findings.

2.15 Reports and findings on scrutiny need to be as accessible as possible. Existing best practice suggests listed authorities should consider adopting some or all of the following approaches:

(a) Reports or findings should be shared in full or in summary with all relevant and interested groups - individuals, representative authorities and associations, and where appropriate with the Government and the Parliament;

(b) Where appropriate, reports or findings should be publicised and made available by the listed body and by the scrutinised organisation - in hard copy as well as on the Internet;

(c) Listed authorities may wish to consider using other innovative means of effective communication which could draw the attention of service users to scrutiny reports, such as texting, social networking, mail shots or public notices.

(d) Listed authorities could consider setting up a forum involving relevant users to ensure that the style of their scrutiny reports is fit for purpose and is easily understood.

Involve users in improvement activity

2.16 Listed authorities with an identified role in providing and monitoring relevant improvement arrangements for service providers should encourage service providers as far as possible to take account of the service user perspective in developing and undertaking service improvements.