A policy on the Practice Centre should:
- make the 'musts' obvious — aim to use 'we must' (or, when appropriate, 'we should') followed by clear bullet points, as much as possible
- have clear, action-based headings, to help staff skim the page when they want to solve a particular problem
- be arranged in process order if an order exists
- break content up with subheadings, bullets and short paragraphs
- add links to related guidance information — do not include guidance information within the policy.
Every policy needs a summary. This summary has a limit of 255 characters (including spaces) and appears at the top of the page and in search results. It should say, very briefly, what the policy contains so a practitioner can decide if the policy is likely to have the information they need.
Structuring the policy into blocks
We chunk policies up with 'blocks'.
When a practitioner opens a page, they will see each block's heading and summary. To read more on a topic, they click the 'show more' button to display the rest of the text.
Some blocks will only have a small amount of text, which will fit in the summary space. An example is the 'Who this policy applies to' block. These blocks don’t need a 'show more' button.
Writing block headings
It's crucial that we describe our block headings well and arrange them in a logical order. This helps practitioners skim the page to see if it's likely to have the information they need.
- If needed, start with a 'What is [subject]' introduction – make it brief.
- All policies should have a 'Who this policy applies to' heading.
- Try to order your other block headings logically.
Writing each block of text
Start with a summary
Begin each chunk with an introductory sentence. The heading and this sentence may be all that practitioners see when they arrive on the page, so the text should either:
- convey the most important idea in the chunk, so most practitioners don’t need to open the accordion (such as 'This policy applies to all Oranga Tamariki staff'), or
- give a very brief summary of the information contained in the chunk, to help practitioners decide whether to open the accordion and read further.
Use 'we must' statements
Policies are for 'must-dos'. Aim to format each chunk as 'we must' statements followed by clear bullet points, as much as possible.
'We must' statements also make sure our sentences are active and it’s clear who has to do what.
Example – We must:
- provide all caregivers with clear information about the allegation as soon as is practical
- inform them that we will complete an investigation or assessment of the allegation.
Sometimes we also include some 'we should' information in the policy — but think carefully about whether 'should' information would be better on a guidance page, with a link in the policy to that guidance.
Style and grammar
The 'How we write' web page has information about our style, how we break text up to make it easier to read, and how we use grammar and punctuation.