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How the Home Office became a top performer for upholding parliamentary scrutiny

Nick Murthwaite

Nick Murthwaite | Fivium

3 min read Partner content

The Home Office has undergone a recent transformation that has seen it turn around its Parliamentary Questions (PQs) performance with a regular on-time response rate of 90-100%.

With one of the highest numbers of PQs across Whitehall, keeping up with demand and ensuring fast but comprehensive responses was becoming a real challenge for the Home Office.

A combination of resourcing issues and using methods not fit for a virtual world for case processing meant they were unable to keep on top of the high volume of incoming PQs. Having been let down by a previous supplier, they reverted to handling PQs by using a combination of Excel, shared folders for oversight and emails for communicating.

Whilst the special trackers created for them on Excel gave them a good database to see PQs with oversight of performance, they ultimately needed a tool that allowed for greater collaboration, particularly during the pandemic.

Key to improving their performance was being able to identify at what stage a PQ was at and with whom it was residing at any given time. Using emails to check this brought about delays, resulted in errors, and gave poor management oversight.

Throughout the past four years, the Home Office has been undergoing an initiative of continual improvement, using technology to revolutionise the way they work. With a sub-optimal response rate, they needed to improve their timeliness and create any efficiencies they could; a new system for managing PQs became essential, as well as the need to restructure their team and examine how resources were allocated.

Throughout the past four years, the Home Office has been undergoing an initiative of continual improvement, using technology to revolutionise the way they work.

The Home Office looked at other government organisations and saw the success they were having with the eCase Correspondence Case Management System. In particular, they were impressed by the extensive collaboration capabilities that were being utilised across Whitehall. Confident that eCase would support them in achieving their desired 100% response rate, the Home Office adopted their new service in September 2020.

Now, when a PQ is received, it is uploaded first thing in the morning, secretariats will help with how it is allocated and a draft is then returned by mid-morning. From here Special Advisors will get a notification saying that it is ready for them to view and clear the relevant response. If it’s not cleared it will be returned with comments and amendments. If it is cleared, it will go to the relevant Minister. Once it is finally cleared the response will be uploaded onto the system.

One of the key success factors identified from the project was the ability to keep track of all PQs in such a way that enabled the department to better enable and respond to parliamentary scrutiny, its main objective in the process redesign. Now, all PQs are automatically downloaded to eCase and relevant reporting is easily available, meaning the management of all PQs are streamlined and efficient.

Alongside adjustments to team structure and resources, eCase has supported the Home Office in improving its response rate to regularly achieving 90-100% timeliness, as well as providing them with savings equivalent to approximately 1.5 FTE which has eased their resourcing issues.

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