Innovation Exchange

Citizen Led Inspection - 'Look See' Programme

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

West Lothian Council has operated a programme of lay inspection since 2011 to help support service improvement activity.  Citizen Led Inspection (CLI) is a form of engagement that empowers customers to inspect and improve West Lothian Council services on behalf of the wider community.

 

Recruiting people from the local area, Citizen Inspectors evaluate the way services are delivered, assess if they are achieving the expected outcomes and encourage feedback on how they can be improved.

 

Following the success of the original programme, in 2015 the council developed new inspection options that offer greater choice through leaner, more sustainable processes.  The new ‘Look See’ inspection process provides timely, independent evaluations of frontline service provision.  Agile and swift, it can be deployed on a needs-basis to better understand what is important to customers in terms of delivery and contribute to service developments and employee training

 

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The new Customer ‘Look See’ inspection is a lighter, customer experience option to the original full inspection. It has been designed to have customers observe and experience service delivery (processes, procedures and interactions), first hand and identify improvements that will create a better standard of customer service.

 

Our original CLI process involves inspectors working closely with a service, its partners and customers for a number of days over a period of between 6-12 weeks. Inspectors are then asked to submit a detailed report of their findings and recommendations. Whilst this approach delivers extremely productive results and improvement plans, it is an intensive inspection for both the inspectors and service.

 

The new inspection process was developed with a view of reducing the burden of time and work on inspectors and services, whilst still providing vital feedback to assist in service improvement.   Primarily aimed at customer-facing council services, the ‘Look See’ method requires inspectors to visit a service, such as a; country park, library, community recycling centre, cemetery or council office and provide feedback on their experience.  Importantly, staff in the service do not have prior knowledge of the inspection activity, as the aim is to have the inspectors experience the service in the same way as any other customer.

 

Inspectors meet with service managers prior to inspections to learn more about the service and any specific activities or issues managers would like them to focus on during their inspection, for example new services or service standards.  Inspectors then have a two-week window to complete their inspection, at a time convenient to them.  They can visit the council service as many times as they like or in as many different locations (if relevant) as they require in this time.

 

Templates are agreed prior to each inspection for the inspectors to complete and return to the council’s Business Improvement team who review the feedback, compile a report and recommendations for the service.  Inspectors are then invited to meet with the service manager to discuss their findings and feedback.

 

The service manager then has responsibility for implementing the improvement recommendations put forward.

Some of the benefits from this new approach are:

 

  • Quick inspections – the whole process can be completed in 6 weeks, including feedback and recommendations;
  • Inspectors can complete their inspections in their own time and to suit their own needs or commitments;
  • Inspectors only need to attend two meetings with the service, with pre and post inspection meetings essential to get the most value from the process;
  • Reports and recommendations are produced by council officers, using the inspector’s feedback and validated by them before completion;
  • There is very little input required by the service, either before or during the inspection:
  • Improvement recommendations tend to be quicker and easier fixes for services.
  • Improvements are led and designed by the customer.

 

The demands are significantly less for all participants and will help the council retain experienced inspectors between full inspections, as well as supporting new volunteers to gain knowledge of the council and confidence in their role before progressing to a full inspection.  It may also encourage participation from different parts of the community that do not have time to commit to the more time consuming full inspection process.

 

Both inspectors and services have been quick to praise the ‘Look See’ inspection process and the council have seen an increase in engagement from inspectors who are keen to get involved in this new form of lay inspection.

This new process was designed to make Citizen Led Inspections more accessible to residents of West Lothian who may have been put off getting involved in the programme due to the time commitments required by the original full inspection.

 

Whilst the new Customer ‘Look See’ inspection process has had a positive impact and spiked public interest, the council still retains a number of inspectors who prefer the more robust and in depth inspection process.  Making sure that the new inspection process works in tandem with the original is key to the ongoing success of the CLI programme, maintaining choice for the customer and a more representative register of inspectors.

 

Since the inception of CLI the council has built up an experienced group of inspectors and it must continue to harness and get the most from this group, whilst encouraging other inspectors to come forward and get involved.

Some further information on West Lothian Council’s CLI process, and in particular the full and original inspection process, can be found on the council’s website.

 

https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/cli

 

Theme: Community Planning and Empowerment

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Daniel Matonti

Business Improvement Officer

West Lothian Council

01506 282647

Case study added to site: March 2017

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