Commitment 4: Improving the accountability of public services – the citizen's journey
Timeline: December 2018 – 2020
Lead: DG Economy, Scottish Government will work collaboratively with scrutiny bodies, regulators, Citizens Advice Scotland and other civil society organisations
What problem are we trying to solve?
How public services are held to account in Scotland is complex. It can be challenging for people to know how to navigate this landscape whether to share their views, resolve a problem or hold public services to account at an individual, organisational, sectoral or national level.
From the public consultation, we heard that people wanted to know:
- how to make their voices heard;
- how they can have a say in, and contribute to, public sector improvement and accountability; and
- who makes decisions about public service design and delivery, how and under what authority.
A lack of understanding and certainty around how public services are held to account can make individuals feel powerless, frustrated or disengaged.
What are we going to do?
This commitment is split into two distinct parts: Part 1 is led by a collaboration of scrutiny bodies and regulators. Part 2 is led by the Scottish Government.
Part 1 – Understanding accountability and improving citizens' access
We commit to work collaboratively within the current regulatory framework to improve the citizen's understanding of and access to accountability mechanisms. This means improving people's understanding of accountability and how Scottish public services are held to account; and how they can exercise their right to seek scrutiny of public services.
We will work together to examine what accountability means to different groups of people. This will include mapping the current landscape of public service scrutiny and regulatory bodies, identifying what sort of decisions they take, what and how they scrutinise and regulate, how they drive improvement and how citizens can access this.
Our approach will include the milestones under Part 1 below.
Part 2 – A citizen-focused approach to public services
Accountability isn't just about reacting when things go wrong. It must be embedded throughout public service design – starting with policy and decision makers hearing people's views and experiences, learning from past experience when designing new services, and tackling the issues that matter to people in a way that works for them.
The Scottish Government is committed to working collaboratively to put these principles into practice by progressing a transformational approach that puts people at the heart of policy making. The Scottish Government will continue its work with a range of partners (taking account of the work of Part 1 of this commitment) to deliver the following milestones under Part 2 below.
Consumer Scotland will establish an investigatory body to tackle issues where there is a high level of consumer detriment. It will provide an important vehicle to build trust and transparency in government by ensuring that those responsible for poor decisions and practices are held to account.
How will this help solve the problem?
The commitment will improve the citizen's journey around public services accountability. It will empower and enable citizens' participation and ability to hold public services to account. We envisage this commitment will deliver the following outcomes:
- amplify the work of scrutiny bodies and regulators to hold public services to account and make it more visible to people
- people know how they can hold public services to account and are supported to do this
- scrutiny bodies, regulators, civil society and government work effectively together and share good practice.
In delivering this commitment we will:
- enable greater transparency by increasing the accessibility, usability and quality of information on public service accountability for people
- enhance and strengthen the citizen voice and citizens' ability to inform public services by helping people navigate the scrutiny and regulatory landscape
- promote people-focused scrutiny mechanisms that strengthen citizens' ability to challenge how public services are delivered, including through complaints and appeals processes
This work will aid the delivery of the:
- Openness commitment within the National Performance Framework
- Community Empowerment
- The Duty of User Focus in Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010
- Potential new Consumer Duty as consulted upon in the Consumer Scotland consultation in July 2018
Part 1 - Understanding accountability and improving citizens' access
- analysing relevant data to identify what public services people seek advice on and the root causes of their concerns;
- working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to identify and share information about their remits, links and perceived challenges;
- holding conversations between citizens, regulators, scrutiny bodies and government to identify how citizens would like to exercise their rights to complain, appeal or seek scrutiny of public bodies, and what the barriers are;
- working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to understand how to share learning and good practice on ensuring citizens are able to help shape their services going forward; and
- identifying ways to improve access to and strengthen citizens' ability to hold public services to account within the current landscape, to amplify the impact of the scrutiny bodies and their distinct duties.
Part 2 – A citizen-focused approach to public services
- Develop an approach to consider the impacts of public policy and decision making on people in a systematic and coherent way, and to recognise the importance of citizens in driving high quality public services;
- Develop a new narrative on the importance of citizens in policy-making
- Assess methods for representing the citizen voice in policy-making
- Develop and trial different ways of supporting policy makers to consider citizens
- Review the provision of and access to advice services in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of the Open Government Partnership to uphold the rights of people in accessing advice; and
- Develop and implement a statutory consumer body for Scotland - Consumer Scotland - in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of Open Government Partnership.
- Complete and publish impact assessments
- Consumer Scotland Bill laid in Scottish Parliament
- Establish delivery mechanisms for Consumer Scotland
State Actors involved: Audit Scotland, Cosla, Scottish Care Commission, Scottish Government, Scottish Information Commissioner, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
Others to be added as we engage further.
Active partners could include: Citizens Advice Network, Open Government Network. Others to be added as we engage further.