Single outcome agreement
The High Level Group on Single Outcome Agreements (which includes COSLA, the Scottish Government, the Improvement Service, SOLACE and Audit Scotland) have jointly issued their guidance to Community Planning Partnerships on the development of SOAs, along with key messages about the SOA process. The material is available on the Improvement Service website (http://www.improvementservice.org.uk/), with the direct link to the materials here.
This is aimed at introducing Voluntary groups to what will become common practice in the near future. The Single outcome agreement will be referenced to in dealings with funders and community groups
The Concordat between the Scottish Government and COSLA agreed in November 2007 set out the terms of a new relationship between the Scottish Government and local government, based on mutual respect and partnership. It underpins the funding to be provided to local government over the period 2008-09 to 2010-2011.
This new relationship is represented by a package of measures, which were endorsed by the Scottish Government and COSLA, and which both parties believe will lead, over time, to significant benefits for users of local services across Scotland.
A central proposal was the creation of a Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) between each Council and the Scottish Government, based on the 15 national outcomes. The national outcomes reflect the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework but they also reflect established corporate and community plan commitments across Scotland's Councils and Community Planning Partnerships. As importantly, progress on the mutually agreed outcomes for Scotland as a whole (the ‘national' outcomes) cannot in most cases happen unless progress is made at local level. Through the Concordat, Councils are committed to supporting progress at national level through improvement in outcomes at local level.
We will detail further information on this as it will affect voluntary groups as the details between Scottish Government and councils to put in place the agreements across Scotland to Reduce the myriad of bureaucracy and reporting that has held councils back for too long. The new system is designed to focus on outcomes - what the council will actually deliver for the people it serves.
CVS North is involved in Building a Highland Compact and are supporting VGES in the Compact Working Group The Purpose of the group is to develop a Compact between the Statutory and Third sector (voluntary, charity and community organisations) in Highland which will set out the principles of working in order to achieve shared outcomes. The Compact Agreement sets out shared principles, values and commitments, and outlines an agreement
that public and Third Sector bodies have developed together to define and manage their relationships.
Benefits of Developing a Compact
The following list (adapted from the Scottish Compact) provides an overview of some of the key benefits which partners have seen as flowing from the development of a compact:
• Strengthening the relationship between the partners
• Extending opportunities for the Third Sector’s members, supporters and users to contribute their experience and ideas to the development and implementation of public policy;
• Making the policies and practice developed by public bodies more responsive to the potential and needs of the Third Sector;
• Increasing understanding of how the public and third sectors work.
Highland Council and Highland Voluntary Sector Forum hosted a conference in Inverness in March to launch the process of creating a Highland Compact. The event was attended by voluntary and statutory organisations operating across the Highlands. The conference heard from speakers across the UK about their experiences of developing Compacts and workshops provided the opportunity for delegates to indicate what they thought a Compact in Highland should include and the benefits that could be achieved from developing one.
1. The ‘outcome focus’ is the ambition to see Scotland’s public services working together, and with private and voluntary sector partners, to improve the quality of life and opportunities in life for people across Scotland. The outcomes in an SOA should be expressed in terms of quality of life and opportunity, or in terms of the economic, social or environmental contexts that influence people’s quality of life and opportunities in life.
“Our guiding principle in this fundamental change is that, both nationally and locally, we should be clear about the outcomes which our communities need and then review and align our arrangements to ensure that they are fit for purpose to support the delivery of those outcomes”.
2. The ‘national outcomes’ agreed between national and local government in the Concordat address the improvements sought across Scotland as a whole in quality of life, opportunities in life and living context. Each local partnership needs to examine trends and issues in their own area, and establish local priorities within that context. In some areas, aspects of quality of life and opportunity may already significantly exceed national ambitions (e.g. life expectancy, East Renfrewshire or East Dunbartonshire): In other areas, the same aspects may fall well below any reasonable expectations (e.g. life expectancy in parts of Glasgow). Priorities need to be set accordingly.
3. SOA’s should focus strategically on priority areas for improvement and on the end outcomes to be achieved in terms of quality of life, opportunity and the context in which people live. They are high level documents and should focus on a limited and manageable number of priorities.
4. Addressing inequalities, and improving equality, in quality of life and opportunities in life is a national outcome in its own right, but also a cross-cutting theme that should be considered across the SOA. General improvement that leaves some of our people living well below the standards of the majority will not meet either national or local ambitions for a fairer Scotland.
5. SOA’s needs to be clear what success will look like and how we will know we are getting there. At minimum, we need to be clear how the end outcome is to be measured, and about how progress towards that will be monitored. The evidence of Phase I of developing SOA’s is that a small number of highly focussed measures of end outcomes and progress targets is more useful than a larger number of less well focussed measures and targets.
6. The SOA does not replace all the underlying service planning and performance management arrangements already in place. It provides an outcome framework and focus for service planning, resource planning and performance management but these still have to be there in a robust and rigorous way. A ‘golden thread’ needs to run from the high level outcomes in the SOA through to the underlying planning, delivery and performance systems of all partners.
7. The partners to the joint SOA will continue to have full accountability for services and provision that is their distinct responsibility. Not everything could or should be included in the SOA! The key development step across the next period is to create effective mechanisms for joint accountability for SOA commitments, alongside the specific accountabilities agencies will continue to have for their own resources and services. Where tensions are identified between new accountability arrangements for the SOA, and the pre-existing accountability frameworks each partner agency operates within, the Scottish Government has agreed to address and resolve these matters.
8. The Scottish approach to developing SOA’s has been explicitly based on action learning. Rather than try to plan everything in advance, which often means nothing happens in practice, the approach has been to establish momentum and learn through practice. It is fair to say that our current arrangements for partnership governance and organisation are less than perfect. However, clear agreement between partners about priority outcomes provides a basis for reviewing and improving them in ways that build people and communities into the centre of our approach to redesigning the public sector.
9. Clearly, realism and ambition need linked in developing SOA’s. Circumstances, like the current global financial crisis, may severely restrict our ability to deliver certain outcomes. Equally, some social issues, like intergenerational disadvantage/deprivation, are deeply embedded, complex and improvement may take time. The key is to start with ambition and let experience temper that rather than let ‘realism’ drive out ambition. If the whole approach is about learning, development and improvement, aiming high is a reasonable starting point.
10. Finally, SOA’s are ultimately a partnership with the people and communities whose quality of life and opportunity we want to be improved. We cannot ‘do’ outcomes to people: We need to work with them to support positive outcomes in their lives. This goes beyond conventional community engagement and is about a fuller partnership with people in pursuing outcomes. This will take time, effort and commitment but key outcomes like improved health, economic opportunity etc can only be achieved this way.