When should stakeholders be involved?
It is good practice to involve users and providers in undertaking any impact assessment at this stage.
Providers will have information about the impact a service is having ‘on the ground’ and what the implications for any changes to the service may be. They will also be able to help commissioners to access information from users about potential impacts, such as arranging for consultation with users who may be affected by service changes or through service user data and feedback.
However, it is important to remember that this may also limit the objectivity of the information received via providers. Commissioners should reduce the risk of partiality by following basic steps for good consultation. For example, by presenting a clear and well articulated set of options highlighting the trade-offs, avoiding loaded or biased questions, and ensuring a degree of independence to the consultation.
As part of an open and transparent process, commissioners should share the results from equality impact assessments with all stakeholders, especially providers and users. Providers felt that not being able to see the completed equality impact assessments led them to mistrust the basis of decommissioning decisions and were more likely to feel that the whole process was poor as a consequence.
Have I got support for the change?
Once a decision to decommission a service has been reached commissioners should outline this in a business case that is signed off by all stakeholders.
Commissioners highlighted the importance of achieving informal support from board or elected members early on. This is to ensure that, when the business case is formally presented to members, there is little or no ‘surprises’ that may prevent the business case being approved and implemented. Our research found some examples where a lack of support delayed and even reversed decommissioning decisions leading to wasted time, resources and funds.
Have I informed providers about the change?
At this stage it may be helpful to have informal discussions with providers about the intention to decommission. Good and early communication can avoid surprises, reduce the risk of challenge, and enable commissioners and providers to work together to reduce any unnecessary impact from decommissioning. Providers said they really appreciated as much prior notice as possible and found informal discussions and conversations helpful. This allows providers to start to plan and consider the implications for their business, such as potential redundancy notices.
Where there is a natural end to a grant or contract, commissioners should work with providers early on to ensure that they are aware that the contract or grant may not be renewed. Providers may sometimes be shocked when decommissioning of their service is announced, even though the end of a contract has been reached, and particularly where they have received a grant or a contract for many years on a rolling basis.