Policy Officers Sophy Broad and Debbie Ann Whittaker recently completed a Strategic Assessment for the Project PSI-6: Explore Options for the Future of Children and Youth Services Foundation (CAYS). It has been approved by Cabinet, and they are now completing a more detailed analysis, which will be presented in an Outline Business Case.
Q1: Why does this project matter?
SB: The CAYS Foundation deals with children and youth who have been remanded or court-ordered into its care. These are our most vulnerable children and they are often voiceless, so we have an obligation to advocate on their behalf, invest in their future and provide the best services we can to support them.
DA: So many agencies touch these children’s lives. We want to ensure that they are collaborating in ways that are effective, so that the children can have a high quality service once they come in contact with the system.
Q2: You have successfully completed a Strategic Assessment and you are now working on an Outline Business Case. What was your experience like?
DA: Having this project and approach sanctioned by Cabinet allowed us to do research-based work. There are often a lot of criticisms about how the Civil Service makes decisions. However, this approach gave us the opportunity to strategically review and consider all options and to compare their advantages and disadvantages.
SB: This process gave us time to think strategically about where we are and where we need to be. It would be good to see it established and grounded more widely across the civil service.
Q3: Some people may question whether the Civil Service can be objective and ask the hard questions for these reports. Do you think you were able to do this?
SB: Yes. It was important to not have an agenda but to focus on really understanding and accurately capturing what is happening now, as opposed to what we thought was happening. We had to have lots of discussions and ask lots of questions not only amongst ourselves but with stakeholders too. And even though we have worked in the system for years and thought we knew the system, we found there were things we didn’t know and wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t undertaken this process.
Q4: An exercise like this can create a lot of anxieties for the people in the agencies that are being reviewed. What was your experience?
DA: They were very receptive. We went in with an open mind, seeking information and wanting to clarify and make sense of what was happening. And we worked really hard to prepare our stakeholders. We told them about the project in advance, so that when we contacted them, they were prepared. Sometimes we can be so critical and negative that we take away from the good that is happening and we don’t give credit for it. We tried to be balanced.
Q5: What is the most important thing you will take away from this experience?
SB: I take away that no person is an island. This Strategic Assessment is really the result of collaboration and, while we’re listed at the Business Case Writers, we couldn’t have done it without the expertise of those in our agencies and the support of the SRIU.
DA: For me this experience has reinforced the importance of carefully analyzing ideas and options in order to improve our decision-making processes.