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Warwickshire County Council
Warwickshire County Council

Participation and engagement

Introduction

Who is the pack for?

This resource pack is primarily aimed at all staff, workers and volunteers who work with service users. Organisations from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors across Warwickshire have contributed to the pack.

The resource pack offers a source of information relating to the national and local agenda on participation. It is a practical guide to involving service users in participation and consultation. In addition to this, it highlights some local case studies and activities designed to enable workers and volunteers to engage with service users so that they become active members of decision-making processes within your settings.

All the activities devised are simple and easy to use. This is not a definitive list of all the activities you could use to involve service users in active decision making. There may be activities and models of good practice that you are aware of that are equally as good as the ones chosen in this guide. Please feel free to adapt any of the material to suit your organisation’s needs and the service users who you currently work with.

What is participation?

Participation, consultation and involvement are terms that are often used interchangeably.

For the purposes of this guide, we have defined consultation, participation and involvement below:

Consultation is a process used by service providers, workers and communities to explore people’s views and opinions on specific issues that affect them. This information is used to both inform and make recommendations for improving services, provision, highlighting needs, or used as a way of affirming decisions already made. Consultation can be undertaken in many ways from surveys to focus groups to events and activities. Consultation is a good way of encouraging people to have their say and provides a pathway for ‘active involvement’ in other structures. Consideration needs to be given to ensuring feedback is given to participants about the results of the consultation and also where and how the information has been used.

Participation and involvement is more than just simply being consulted or taking part in an activity or event. It refers to a process whereby people are ‘actively involved’ in identifying needs, exploring solutions, making decisions and planning the way forward for projects, organisations and the wider community. As providers of services we have a duty to allow users of communities to express their views freely and be actively involved in the development, delivery and evaluation of the services.

Participation means: 'getting involved'. In government terms, this means that 'All children, young people and families will be actively involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of services'.

Therefore all work with children and young people that enable them to take part can be defined as participation.

Participation activities cover:

  • Consultation - Children and young people are asked about their views. Adults make the decision but take children's and young people's views into account and give feedback about decisions and actions taken.
  • Representation - Children and young people represent their peers' views on an adult-initiated issue. Again adults take views into account and give feedback about decisions and actions.
  • Decision sharing - Children and young people share responsibility for decision making with adults.
  • Implementation - Children and young people are given responsibility for a project and the outcomes. Staff support and monitor the progress.
  • Initiating - Children and young people generate ideas for action and make all the major decisions. Adults are available for consultation but do not take charge.

Consultation is one aspect of participation but does not constitute participation as a whole. Consultation with young people needs to be done correctly; this means ensuring that a wide range of young people take an active part and feeding back to the young people who have taken part.