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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

The benefits of being a volunteer service assessor

Jessie Fergusson creating an agile wall on a glass panel

As a senior user researcher it's my role to help our teams understand who'll use the services we're developing. This involves visiting schools, and planning and conducting research in the Early Years education space with both teachers and pupils.

As well as my day job, I also volunteer as a ‘service assessor’. This means every few months I'm one of a panel of three people running a ‘service assessment’.

These sessions are important quality control milestones for service teams. They are one of the methods we use to uphold the service standard, ensure consistency across government and make sure services work well for users.

Anyone can be trained to become a service assessor. And we’re now looking for more people to volunteer. In this post I’ll outline what being a service assessor entails, and how you can get involved.

What we look for in assessors

Poster saying: Service Standard, Meeting users' needs: 1. Understand users and their needs, 2. Solve a whole problem for users, 3. Provide a joined up experience for across all channels, 4. Make the service simple to use, 5. Make sure everyone can use the service"

We like volunteer assessors to have experience of working to the Government Service Standard.

If you have experience of having been in an assessment, that's great. It’s always good to be able to empathise with the team being assessed and know what it’s like to be in their shoes.

Assessors have a range of backgrounds, from those with a wealth of civil service experience, to those that have digital delivery experience but bring something new to government.

We'll give you training

You’ll have a day of training and the opportunity to observe two assessments before you’re expected to sit on a panel. This helps you get a feel for how to assess services effectively.

How does it fit in with my other work?

You would assess services as and when you're available. You'll be given dates for upcoming assessments and you can opt in or out accordingly. This allows you to manage your own time and factor in your own team's priorities.

The assessment itself

A few days in advance of the assessment, you - as a member of the assessment panel - are given a briefing document to read in advance.

On the day the service team showcase their work and the panel have the opportunity to ask questions.

For me as a user research assessor, I get to ask questions about recruitment, research methods and future research plans. As well as peer reviewing the service team's work, being on an assessment panel also gives me lots of ideas for how I can conduct my own research in the future.

‘Handling the room’

I’ve also found that being on an assessment panel has helped me develop other skills. It’s really important to understand how to ask the right questions, handle tricky room dynamics and make sure that everyone in the room has the chance to be heard.

Assessors often need to bring a lot more than just knowledge of the service standards to the table.

The follow-up report

After the assessment, the panel gathers to decide if a team has ‘met’ or ‘not met’ each of the points and discuss why. The lead assessor then writes a report, which is shared with the project team and then published on GOV.UK.

What’s in it for me?

Personally, I’ve found that being an assessor has given me the opportunity to understand digital government in a really unique way. I’ve met many new colleagues from different departments, and I’ve had a ‘deep dive’ into services and departments I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

It’s also a really great chance to come up for air - we can all get stuck into our own projects for too long sometimes, and it’s refreshing to see how other teams and departments are tackling similar issues.

There has not been a single service assessment yet where I have not come out of it with brand new ideas for how my team can tackle our latest problem.

What next?

If you’d like to become a service assessor, email Karen Froggatt , or get in touch with me.

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  1. Comment by Marc posted on

    This is a really interesting post - thank you.

    I have a quick question, who can apply to be volunteer assessors?

    Many thanks