April 21, 2009
Scotland’s Duty to Involve
Guidance for Community Planning – section 5
5. Engaging Community Bodies and other Public Bodies
Section 15(1 ) of the Act , requires local authorities, as facilitators, to consult and co-operate with community bodies and with other public sector bodies as appropriate in the Community Planning process. Section 15(2) also requires the local authority to invite and encourage community bodies and other public sector bodies within the local authority area to participate in Community Planning. Section 16(2) requires that those bodies required to participate in Community Planning assist the local authority in its role as facilitator. This section should be read alongside Best Value Guidance ( see also Advice Note 5: Effective Community Engagement for more information).
5.1 Engaging Community Bodies – What the Duty Entails
The effective and genuine engagement of communities is at the heart of Community Planning. There are a wide range of ‘communities’, some defined by geography (such as a neighbourhood or town), some by common or shared interests (such as young people or carers). The definition of ‘community body’ in the Act, section 15(4), is therefore deliberately broad in order to avoid excluding any particular communities.
This guidance sets out the framework and parameters for community engagement in the Community Planning process. Consultation alone is not sufficient to ensure effective community engagement. Community engagement in this context must involve consultation, co-operation and participation. It is the responsibility of the local authority, as facilitator of the Community Planning process assisted by organisations with a duty to participate, to take a view on the appropriateness of particular arrangements to their own particular circumstances.
Purpose of Engagement
In the context of Community Planning, the main aim of community engagement should be to improve the planning and delivery of services by making them more responsive to the needs and aspirations of communities. This will require the Community Planning partnership to seek the views of communities, but also to secure their more active involvement as partners in Community Planning.
It is particularly important that communities are engaged in the process at the local level as it is at this level that agencies can come together and work with their communities to address local problems and concerns in a way that cannot be achieved at a council-wide level alone.
It would be unrealistic to expect that the needs and aspirations of all communities be met in full, and Community Planning partnerships should be clear and explicit about this when engaging with communities. Genuine community engagement will, however, benefit decision making within spending bodies by giving an informed view of priorities.
Local authorities, in their initiation and facilitation of the Community Planning process, should consult and co-operate with a wide range of interests including:
· Community and voluntary organisations, whether delivering services or representing a specific area or interest which may be locally based or, where appropriate, a regional or national organisation. This could include a wide range of bodies such as: young people and youth work bodies who already make a valuable contribution to the planning and provision of services through their involvement in youth forums and their active citizenship; environmental bodies, rural bodies, consumer bodies; sports and cultural bodies;
· Community Councils fulfilling their role as representatives of their local area.
· Equalities groups and interests ( see paragraph 10 on mainstreaming equalities).
· Business, through representative organisations or businesses themselves.
· Trade unions as representative and democratic agencies.
· Professional interests.
Community bodies involved in the Community Planning process should operate in an open, democratic and accountable manner, and be clear about what interests they can or cannot represent. However, as facilitator the local authority should also engage with those individuals who would not normally participate (‘hard to reach’). The process should also be open to individuals who may not always form part of an organised or structured group.
Means of engagement
The ways in which Community Planning partnerships engage with communities should reflect the circumstances of their particular communities. For example, the structure and working practices of organisations and groups in rural areas will be distinct from urban areas and will require tailored approaches. However, there are some common requirements:
· Community Planning partnerships should ensure that there are agreed criteria in place for the engagement of community bodies and that there is a process in place for systematic review of its approach to community engagement.
· Representation of community interests on the Community Planning partnership is one means of engagement and this should be considered by partnerships as a potential option for engagement.
· Community Planning partnerships should fully consider how more localised or neighbourhood Community Planning structures may feed into the Community Planning process in its area. The engagement of communities is likely to be most effective and meaningful at this level.
· Consultation is important but so is feedback. Community bodies should feel that they have been listened to and that the partnership has taken account of their views. Community bodies should also be provided with information about the actions taken after consultation through transparency in the decision making process and in reporting ( see paragraph 11).
· Consultation alone cannot provide a basis for effective community engagement. However, good practice in consultation can be used to help provide the basis for other forms of community engagement.
· The voluntary sector plays a key role in involving communities and excluded groups, particularly at the local level. Local authorities and other Community Planning partners should ensure their skills are fully utilised (see Advice Note 5: Effective Community Engagement for further detail).
The engagement of community bodies in the Community Planning process should build on and enhance existing arrangements and partners should share existing good practice. There will inevitably be a degree of judgement on whether existing approaches are effective but, in line with the over-arching framework of Community Planning, there should be a presumption towards:
· Using and/or building upon proven or successful representative, consultative or co-operative mechanisms already established e.g. councils of voluntary services, community forums, interest forums or community councils.
· Complementing consultation and co-operative mechanisms already undertaken by individual organisations who are part of the Community Planning partnership.
· Collective approaches by agencies comprising the partnership to engaging communities to help avoid consultation fatigue and overload.
To ensure Best Value in the use of resources methods used should be cost effective and be proportional to the issues being addressed and intended follow-up.
Supporting the Process
Building social capital – the motivation, networks, knowledge, confidence and skills – within communities should be an integral part of achieving more effective community engagement. Local authorities, in conjunction with their other Community Planning partners, should provide support to community and voluntary bodies to facilitate community engagement in the Community Planning process to those communities most in need. Support given should respect the independence of these bodies.
Community learning and development can play a central role in supporting the engagement of communities (including young people) in the Community Planning process. Draft guidance,Working and Learning Together to Build Stronger Communities was issued in January 2003 ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/social/walt-00.asp) and final guidance when launched will strengthen the link between community learning and development and Community Planning at all levels. Support will also be provided by Community learning and development partnerships to assist community bodies to develop their own ideas for their community including education and training support – this support will be targeted towards disadvantaged communities. Community learning and development partnerships provide one important means of engagement for Community Planning partnerships.
Local authorities, in fulfilling their duty to facilitate, and other bodies in a supporting role to local authorities, should also ensure they have the necessary skills and motivation to engage with community bodies.