Changes to policy and procedures
Changes in policy and procedure can have a great effect on people in, and related to, an organisation. Policies and related procedures are constantly evolving due to changes in:
- government and/or government priorities
- service agreements with funding bodies
- clients’ needs
- community needs and expectations
- available information and research
- recommended models of service delivery
- national Standards, professional standards and ethics
Policies and procedures may also need to change, due to accidents and incidents.
The best way to ensure that you work within the requirements of the law is by following your agency's policies and procedures. Organisations have a responsibility to ensure that their staff are kept informed of of changes to the law through induction programs and regular training and information sessions.
It is essential that you remain abreast of any changes to policy and procedures.
- Attend training.
- Review current legislation, policies and procedures through Intranet and Internet resources.
- Seek clarification of legal obligations and responsibilities from your line manager.
You also have an obligation to ensure clients are always fully informed of changes to policy and procedures that might affect them, so they are aware of their rights and/or responsibilities under the new arrangements.
Need a new policy or procedure?
If you notice that a particular policy is outdated or there does not seem to be a relevant policy, there is a range of things you can do to help address the issue. The need for a new policy or procedure (or the limitation of any existing one) is often highlighted through a critical incident, such as an accident or near-miss.
In such cases it is good professional practice to do one of the following:
- Notify your team leader or supervisor of the deficiency.
- Notify the person or committee responsible.
- Offer to assist the person or committee by reviewing and making changes to existing policy.
- Offer to assist in drafting new policy for consideration by the group.
Helping review policies and procedures
Given that policy and procedures are subject to change, it is important to understand the role you might be able to play in this process. For instance, you may be approached to assist because you are a stakeholder or because you have expertise in the policy or procedure that is being reviewed.
Ensure that your supervisor is aware of the activity, if you are contributing to the review of policy or procedures, particularly if there is no reference to this activity in your position description.
There are a number of ways in which you might be called upon to help with the review and/or development of policy and procedures:
- You could help with clarifying the issues surrounding the policy or procedure. You might help gather information which will contribute to informed debate and decision-making with respect to the new or revised policy. This might involve accessing a range of people, documents and existing policies.
- You could provide feedback on proposals for new or reviewed policy and procedures. This helps identify all the potential issues surrounding the proposal. You might be asked to comment on a particular plan developed by a policy development team, to ensure that all issues impacting on your work area are dealt with.
- You might provide briefing materials on policy issues, such as briefing papers outlining the key issues.
- You might promote discussion on the policy or procedure and lead small groups of stakeholders in debating these issues.
Many people in, and connected to, the organisation, will be interested in being involved in policy development or review because they are likely to be affected by any changes. These people are referred to as stakeholders.
It is very important that you accurately identify and then engage with the stakeholders associated with a policy or procedure. Serious problems can arise if you fail to secure the contribution of a key stakeholder.
Stakeholders can include (among many others):
- members of the clients' social network
- staff within your organisation
- your management team
- other government agencies
- community groups
- lobby groups
- health care providers
- individual citizens
- citizens/communities who live or work in a geographic 'place'
- peak organisations
- academics and other experts.
To involve all those interested in and affected by this process, strategies need to be put in place to ensure everyone is able to contribute.
Some strategies for involving stakeholders include:
- asking questions
- raising issues for discussion
- requesting feedback and comment
- requesting information about specific topics/issues
- clarifying the value of particular processes
- proposing joint problem-solving forums.
The ability to frame questions is a key skill for any person who is involved in the review or development of policies and procedures. When you are engaging with stakeholders, asking the right questions can stimulate informed debate.
Possible questions to ask could include:
- What is the value base of this particular policy? (e.g. equality and equity)
- Is it different from the organisational value base?
- For what reason has the policy been formulated in the past or should it be formulated
- Who will benefit?
- How will they benefit?
- Does any present policy cover all the dimensions of this current issue or do gaps exist?
These may be answered using any of the following techniques:
- seeking written feedback
- staff forums/meetings
- individual interviews.
Two useful methods for continuing the process of informed debate for the development and review of policy include:
- SWOT analysis