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Experimenting with more collaborative regulatory practice in Manchester

The Centre for Public Impact, in partnership with the King’s Fund, has been working with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), regulatory and inspection partners to design a different approach to working together around regulation. This project is part of the UK Government’s Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities’ National Changing Futures programme.

Unlocking public service improvement

Regulation has the potential to unlock public service improvement, but current approaches mean it is a break on innovation. A more collaborative approach to regulation, centred on learning together, could improve how public services are delivered, particularly for those experiencing multiple disadvantage.

Together, with the GMCA and partners, we have been exploring how to encourage more learning and collaboration between local authorities and regulators like the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted. We launched an action enquiry to understand where to focus efforts to improve how local authority providers and regulators work together. 

Download our insight paper

Our findings 

The relationship between regulators and providers is fundamental

We need to change how providers and inspectors work together, increasing collaboration to promote improvement and learning.

Improving collaboration around transition points for those experiencing multiple disadvantage could transform outcomes

Transition points - for example, moving between services, or the transition from 18 to adult life - are one area where people experiencing multiple disadvantage do not get the support they need. Improvement here, therefore, offers the most significant scope for change.

Collective myth-busting around regulatory constraints is needed

We need to develop a more precise understanding of the real vs. mythical limitations of regulation.

We must learn together how the system feels to those experiencing multiple disadvantage

Conducting system mapping and other discovery activities together as a group of providers and regulators will help us reflect on how to change the structures around regulatory practice to enable public service improvement.

The challenge

Greater Manchester and its partners are committed to radically reimagining how services work so residents achieve their full potential and nobody is left behind.

Relationships around regulation, namely those between regulators, inspectors, local authorities, or public service providers, have been identified as barriers to achieving this vision. This is because:

  • Many regulators are encouraged to ‘rate and rank’ providers, framing regulation as a score to be kept.

  • Regulators tend to look at public service providers in the abstract, rather than the public services that someone experiencing multiple disadvantage relies on.

  • The internal performance management approaches within regulated organisations will often reflect the same scorekeeping approach. But, unfortunately, this means they take time away from delivering quality public services to prepare for inspections, which feels counterproductive.

Overall, the current relationships around regulation limit collaboration and the genuine improvement of services and system change for residents, particularly those experiencing multiple disadvantage.

What we're doing

Together with the GMCA, regulators and local authority partners we are designing an action research experiment to explore what a more collaborative approach to working together around regulation could be, in a way that improves public services for those experiencing multiple disadvantage.

This builds on the insights gained from CPI’s Regulation Community of Practice, which brought together 30+ regulators, inspectors, auditors, local authorities and public sector providers. You can find insights from that Community of Practice here.

CPI is playing the role of a learning partner, in collaboration with the King's Fund. We are supporting partners by designing and facilitating a journey that promotes experimentation and continuous learning. Regulatory partners include Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

What’s next

We want to take this work further, and move from designing to piloting a different approach, based on more collaborative regulatory practice, focused on transition points in people’s lives in Rochdale and Oldham local authorities. Senior stakeholders are bought in to learning together here, and we are committed to continuing to share our learning about how to move towards more collaborative regulatory practice. We will also be launching a call to join a national conversation around the need for regulatory practice, so watch this space.

Are you experimenting with more collaborative regulatory practice or have insight into how to work better in partnership? Or are you interested in being part of an ongoing conversation around this? If so, get in touch.

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