August 14, 2019
When the first piece of land reform legislation was passed, the right wing press screamed headlines predicting Mugabe-style land grabs. The part of the 2003 Act they were most outraged about was the community right to buy provisions but their fears that communities everywhere would rush to use the legislation proved groundless. At the time, little effort was made to promote the opportunities presented by the Act, so it was no surprise that so few communities sought to take advantage of them. Seems like similar issues are afflicting parts of the Community Empowerment Act.
In the year since they were introduced, SCDC has learned a lot about participation requests. Our new briefing summarises our learning so far.
Participation requests are a way for people to have their say about what improvements they would like to see made to public services they use. Community groups in Scotland have been able to make them since April 2017, when they were introduced as part of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act.
The briefing highlights that more information and support needs to be available to groups that want to make participation requests. The legislation and guidance may require some strengthening as well. If this happens, participation requests have the potential to be an important piece of the puzzle in making bottom-up co-production happen in Scotland.
1. More needs to be done to raise awareness of participation requests.
2. When people know about participation requests they need support in order to make them.
3. Disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as people experiencing poverty, disabled people and black and minority ethnic groups, need targeted support in order to make participation requests.
4. There needs to be stronger legislation and/or guidance around the outcome improvement process which is set up when a participation request is agreed to.
5. There was a strong feeling amongst people we spoke to that, in order to work, participation requests need to have independent oversight and an appeals mechanism – people regularly described the legislation as “lacking teeth”.
6. Participation requests may not be the ‘silver bullet’ to increasing participation in public service design, but they could be an important ‘piece of the puzzle’.
7. Many people we have spoken to feel that they should be able to make participation requests to more public bodies than those already listed in the legislation.