The Service Standard helps teams create and operate good public services. It started out as something aimed at central government teams, but the latest version is something you can use even if you’re part of the wider public sector - local government, for example. And you can adapt it for non-transactional services too.
If you started your discovery before 30 June 2019, you’ll need to use the previous version of the standard instead.
What has to be assessed
No matter which version of the standard you’re using, you must get your service assessed if it’s the responsibility of a central government department and either of the following apply:
- getting assessed is a condition of your Cabinet Office spend approval
- it’s a transactional service that’s new or being rebuilt - your spend approval will say whether what you’re doing counts as a rebuild
These rules apply even if your service is internal and will only be used by civil servants.
What counts as a transactional service
You’re required to get your service assessed against the Service Standard if you’re a central government department working on a transactional service. Your service is transactional if it allows users to either:
- exchange information, money, permission, goods or services
- submit personal information that results in a change to a government record
If you’re working on one of these services, you’ll usually need to arrange an assessment to check you’re meeting the standard. You’ll find out at spend control if you’re required to have an assessment.
Which bits of the service get assessed
If you’re working to the previous version of the standard, your assessment will focus on the transaction you’ve built.
The updated Service Standard requires you to think about the user’s wider journey. But that doesn’t mean the entire journey is being assessed when you come in for an assessment.
The things that get assessed are:
- the transaction you’ve been working on
- your understanding of the user’s wider journey - and the work you’ve done to make sure the transaction you’ve built joins up with that wider journey
You wouldn’t fail an assessment just because there are still problems with the wider user journey, as long as you’ve done what’s reasonable in the circumstances to make things better. Service teams should be thinking about the wider journey their service is part of - but it’s important to fix that journey in increments, starting small.
Who will run your assessment
GDS will run your assessments if either:
- your service is likely to handle more than 100,000 transactions per year
- civil servants in more than one organisation will use your service
Otherwise, your service will be assessed by your department’s assessment team. If your department doesn’t have an assessment team, you could ask for help in the #standard-assessments channel on cross-government Slack.
You can check when and how to book an assessment.
Voluntary assessments for central government services
Even if your service doesn’t need an assessment, you can arrange one to check you’re building it in a way that meets the Service Standard.
If you want to arrange a voluntary assessment, contact:
- GDS by emailing email@example.com - if you expect your service to have more than 100,000 transactions per year
- your digital leader - if your service is likely to have fewer than 100,000 transactions per year
Assessments in local government
If you’re working in local government you can use the localgov digital Slack channel to ask for a peer review of your work.
Adapting the updated Service Standard
It’s possible to adapt the Service Standard to suit different contexts.
For example, you might be building a non-transactional service like a website or calculator. You won’t need to publish data on the mandatory KPIs, but you should still know what your users are trying to do and be collecting data that helps you work out whether they’re able to do that or not.
Or if you’re creating a service for people who work in government, you could take a more relaxed view of things like uptime, as the service is unlikely to be needed 24 hours a day. But make sure to schedule any downtime outside of office hours.
If you’re creating a service that’s not for GOV.UK, it’s still a good idea to use the patterns in the GOV.UK Design System. But it’s not always appropriate to make your service look like GOV.UK.
You may also find the following guides useful:
Guidance first published