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‘Start a business’ service community: Food Standards Agency and Business Support Helpline working together

A hand pointing at a service landscape map around starting a business

A service community is a network of people from across the public sector who work together to design and deliver an end-to-end service. This means looking at user journeys from the point where the user starts trying to achieve a goal to the point when they’re finished. 

One of the first service communities established in government is the ‘start a business’ community, which has been meeting regularly for over 18 months. 

The community has worked together to develop a number of things, including the Set-up as self-employed and Set-up a limited company step by step pages.

And one of the main benefits of the community is that it helps members work together to improve their parts of the service. Here’s how the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the national Business Support Helpline funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) worked together to improve things for users.

A digital registration service to help food businesses

A key aspect of the FSA’s work is in helping businesses understand their responsibilities for producing safe food, and how to meet those responsibilities.

Businesses need to set up for success, getting it right from the start before bad practice creeps in, putting consumers at risk. Businesses need easy access to information and guidance, to help them comply with food safety regulations.

Under the current registration system, many food businesses do not proactively register with their local authority when they set up their businesses. To help them do this, the FSA is developing the ‘Register a food business’ (RAFB) digital service that will make it easier for food businesses to sign up and get the right information

Fitting the service in the wider context

The digital development team at the FSA had successfully completed the alpha

assessment for the ‘Register a food business’ service and wanted to get feedback from other government departments before moving into beta.

By mapping the ‘start a business’ process from end to end with the community, the team was able to understand where their service (RAFB) sat within this wider user journey.

Linking up with the Business Support Helpline

The FSA team were also able to link up with colleagues at BEIS, as they were also members of the ‘start a business’ community.

Specifically, they were able to talk to the BEIS team that runs the Business Support Helpline. This helpline is used by around 35,000 people each year and it provides information about business services in government. The helpline team also get first-hand insights from users and can find out what they are struggling with.

The FSA team visited the Business Support Helpline to learn more about their service and to look at how it could integrate with the ‘Register a food business’ service. 

The Business Support Helpline team was able to give feedback on how to incorporate advice for businesses into their communications, including the guidance pages for starting a food business on The collaboration continued as the service iterated, with the Business Support Helpline team giving feedback about navigation, content and design.

A table at a service community workshop with people working together, drafting and editing a service landscape map for starting a business

Benefitting users

This collaboration, through the service community, has led to a number of benefits for users. 

The Business Support Helpline team is now able to ensure users know their obligations around food safety and standards, which improves compliance. And the FSA team is able to link up users who are registering a food business to the helpline, so that they can get a full range of support.

The Business Support Helpline and FSA teams have agreed to continue working together to improve their services and contribute back to the ‘start a business’ community. They also plan to continue to feedback on each other’s work on an ongoing basis. 

How service communities helped

Through their attendance at the ‘start a business’ community, the FSA were able to identify the importance of collaborating with the Business Support Helpline and connecting food businesses to it. 

Without this connection, food businesses may have missed out on crucial information from the helpline advisors and, more importantly, missed out on improving the experience for the user, by thinking about the wider user journey and what users are actually trying to do.

Following this collaboration, the FSA team have identified opportunities for future cross-government working, with the BEIS passport team and the HMRC Business Start-ups & Entrepreneurs team, to introduce an online business advice portal.

If you would like to find out more about this work or are interested in the start a business service community reach out on the #servicecommunities cross-government Slack channel. If you are interested in learning more about working across organisational boundaries you can find guidance in the Service Manual.

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