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Transforming regulation through collaboration in Manchester

The Centre for Public Impact, in partnership with the King’s Fund, has been working with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and 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 Levelling 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, we have been exploring how to encourage more learning and collaboration between local authorities in Rochdale and Oldham 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 report

Insights from regulators, inspectors, and practitioners

We are not seeing the person outside of the ‘to-do list’ –– we are not seeing the individual.

We should celebrate progress together, not just being chased and told off.

If you don’t explicitly say ‘yes you can’ then you are at the mercy of culture. Ambiguity creates myths.

The structure doesn’t incentivise people to look at the bigger picture.

We have a broken relationship and communication between inspectors, regulators, and providers–we don’t have a joint and partnership approach.

Our findings 

Current approaches to evaluating service performance focus on the providers instead of the people using the services

The lack of focus on people results in inadequate responses to complex needs. We need to involve service users in the change processes to enable public service improvement.

Accountability structures do not incentivise responsibility or positive risk-taking

A mismatch between power, responsibility, and accountability limits frontline workers' abilities to shape service improvement. Devolving power at a place-based level will empower localities to take ownership and respond to local needs.

A culture of fear and anxiety hinders collaboration

This fear-based relationship inhibits conversations and learning. We need a collaborative shift to foster trust, learning, and productive working relationships.

Ambiguity about the remit of regulation creates myths and a culture of risk aversion

Inspectors and practitioners should collaborate more outside formal inspections to help dispel myths and build a collective learning environment.

What needs to change

Insights from our work have identified a clear need for more collaborative and place-based approaches to regulation.

  • Enhanced collaboration for improvement

    More collaboration and improved relationships are necessary to prevent myths and reverse the culture of risk aversion. Collaboration based on principles of trust and honesty will also further shift the regulatory and inspection culture towards diversity, innovation, and improvement.

  • Empowering local solutions

    Devolving more power to local authorities, voluntary sectors, and grassroots organisations would enable public services to better respond to the needs of local communities and allow for a more person-centred approach. In this way, local leaders will have the power to take ownership and accountability for local public service improvement.

What we’ve done

Together with the GMCA, regulators and local authority partners, we are implementing an action research experiment to explore a more collaborative approach to regulation, to improve services for those experiencing multiple disadvantage. Read our insight paper to find out more.

This work builds on the insights gained from CPI’s Regulation Community of Practice in 2021, which brought together 30+ regulators, inspectors, auditors, local authorities and public sector providers.

Read our report

What’s next

We plan to take this work forward by setting up a Public Service Improvement Partnership, Local Operational Taskforce, and Action Research Programme in Rochdale.

Senior stakeholders are bought into learning together here, and we are committed to continuing to share our learning about moving towards more collaborative regulatory practice.

Are you interested in exploring how to move towards more collaborative and person-centred approaches to regulatory practice? If so, get in touch.

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