2. Analysis of Responses
14. This sections presents the findings relating to questions 1 to 3 covering the potential use of a statutory form.
Question 1: Requirement for a statutory form
15. Question 1 asked:
"Should the use of a statutory form be required in the regulations? (Yes/No) Please give reasons for your response."
16. Almost all of the respondents (97%) addressed question 1. Of these the majority (73%) answered yes, expressing the view that a statutory form for participation requests should be required.
Table 2. Requirement for a statutory form by respondent
|Respondent Group||Yes||%||No||%||Number responded||No response|
|Third Sector Organisations||18||62%||11||38%||29||1|
|Community Planning Partnerships||6||67%||3||33%||9||0|
|Other Public Sector||9||82%||2||18%||11||0|
*Due to rounding the % total does not equal 100%
Benefits of and reasons for the use of a statutory form
17. Among the perceived benefits of, or reasons for, the use of a statutory form, a common theme emerged on the importance of consistency and accessibility.
Benefit to community bodies
18. It was mentioned that the use of a statutory form would provide a degree of consistency in the initial stages of participation requests being made. It would provide clarity for the community bodies making the request around the level of information required and help community bodies to frame their requests. As some respondents noted this was important as the requests would have to address the criteria set out in section 22 of the Community Empowerment Act.
19. It was suggested that the consistency of approach in terms of the documentation to be submitted would be important to keep participation processes, which may be subject to some local variation, as straightforward as possible for community bodies. This would also be important for community bodies that span more than one local authority area or wish to address issues and opportunities spanning different public bodies. Community bodies should find it easier to navigate through systems as it will be less confusing than if different forms are used by different organisations.
20. A small number of respondents stated that a statutory form was necessary and should be standardised across public bodies, to prevent 'obstructive bodies' complicating the process for community groups. Concern was raised that without the use of a statutory form, it may be easier for public service authorities to refuse participation requests if they feel community bodies have not provided adequate information about the request. A statutory form places all community bodies on an equal footing, including those less experienced working with public bodies, and ensures that all parties involved know what information is required to fairly consider a participation request.
Benefit to public authorities
21. It was voiced that a standard format and process for participation requests would assist the public service authorities in assessing and responding to the request. The use of a standard form would also help to ensure clarity and consistency of information provided to Public Service Authorities as required by the legislation to be provided by the community participation body.
22. A number of respondents made references that a standard form would allow public service authorities to assess requests within the timescales set out in the legislation without the need to go back to the community participation body for additional information. Frivolous applications could be more easily dealt with and it would enable public service authorities to readily identify participation requests from other correspondence.
23. Some respondents commented that a standard form would allow for information to be shared more easily between public authorities who have to respond to the request and dialogue would be correspondingly easier as it was on a shared understanding of what was required.
24. A number of respondents commented that the creation of a Scotland wide, standardised approach to submitting participation requests would be beneficial as it would create a benchmark for requests. This would enable more meaningful comparisons (locally and across boundaries) when reviewing the process and impact of participation requests. This could help highlight a need for further information and awareness building across geographic and other communities about available services.
25. A range of other suggestions and issues were raised by respondents which included:
- There should be with scope for public service authorities to add to and enhance the statutory form to reflect local circumstances, policies and procedures.
- Having a recognised form would also ensure that the process is distinct and sits as a specific augmentation to existing engagement and participation mechanisms already in place.
- When providing community participation bodies with a statutory form, public service authorities should also provide a guide detailing the Participation Request process; how long the response will take, what are the next stages etc. It would also be helpful if the form encouraged community bodies to make informal contact with a public service authority before submitting a participation request, in particular to clarify the outcome and improvement process that will form the focus for the request.
- The level of participation sought by communities will vary from those seeking to involve themselves in the planning of services, to those with ambitions of taking on the delivery of services and this should be reflected in a two part form. Recipients of a completed form within public service authorities should be able to easily identify the level of participation sought and provide the correct guidance accordingly.
- It is critically important that the form is accessible, easy to understand, and that public bodies make adequate efforts to support applicants to complete the form as necessary. The statutory form must be accessible in a range of formats to meet the needs of those individuals and interest groups who are most likely to be excluded from decision-making, outcome improvement and service planning
- The example statutory form which is included in annex B could be improved in terms of accessibility (for example, the language used in the notes), inclusion of more background information (for example, definition of a community body, outline of process that will follow), and tailoring by public service authorities, for example, to include contact details for appropriate individuals within those bodies.
- One respondent noted that when the Community Right to Buy of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was first introduced it did not include an application form. At a later date Scottish Government produced a standard application form to provide clarity as to the information required and this has greatly assisted this early part of the right to buy process.
The drawbacks of the use of a statutory form
26. 26% of those who answered Question One stated that a statutory form for making a participation request should not be required.
27. Many respondents focused on the impact of having a statutory form on the community bodies who want to participate. It was suggested that the use of a statutory form would have a negative impact on community groups:
- A badly designed form may put some community groups off and act as a barrier for those wanting to participate, including where members have disabilities.
- Often disadvantaged communities are dissuaded by forms, especially if there are difficulties with written English. Forms can make some communities feel excluded and out of place.
- To ensure that groups who may find it difficult to complete a form, such as those with low literacy or where English is not their first language, alternative application methods should be accepted.
28. A good number of respondents suggested that while a statutory form was not required a non-statutory or model form could be used which could then be adapted to meet local needs.
29. Some respondents who did not agree with the use of a statutory form added further commentary in their response. Some suggestions and issues raised by respondents included:
- The onus should be on the public body to facilitate the process of participation, and therefore accept requests for participation in a variety of formats and not have the format of this set by legislation.
- Public participation exists in a range of policing and partnership so we should be careful not to bureaucratise existing participation.
- It would be preferable to develop a local form that could reflect local geography, utilise language that is meaningful to communities, fit with local culture e.g. Gaelic Language, be able to be adapted as knowledge and experience of participation requests develops, contain local information on where to access guidance and support and be integrated to associated local systems that exist
- Each Community Planning Partnership should have the scope to create a locally relevant process to be applied consistently to all participation requests. There should be transparency and systematic information provided for all requests to ensure fairness as well as to demonstrate an audit trail to show the correct process has been followed.
- As there are many public service authorities that can receive a participation request, a non-statutory form developed for use within a Community Planning Partnership would allow for consistency between these different organisations. A non-statutory form is appropriate provided it is not overly onerous or complicated and does not prevent any community groups from applying to make a request.
- It is important for each public service authority to have a consistent form and not to each have their own one which could lead to multiple forms for community bodies to contend with. A further consideration is that there may be conflict with other pieces of legislation which require information to be gathered and recorded in specific formats.
- The form which is included as annex B of the consultation could be improved in terms of accessibility (for example, re language used in the notes), inclusion of more background information (for example, definition of a community body, outline of process that will follow), and tailoring by public service authorities, for example, to include contact details for appropriate individuals within those bodies.
Question 2: No requirement for a statutory form
30. Question 2 asked:
"Should it be possible for a community body to put in a participation request without using a form? (Yes/No) Please give reasons for your response."
31. Almost all of the respondents (96%) addressed question 2. Of these the overall majority (58%) answered no, expressing the view that it should not be possible for a community body to put in a participation request without using a form. There were, however, some differences in the way that different groups responded to this question with a substantial majority of individuals, third sector organisations and community groups responding yes.
Table 3. No requirement for a statutory form by respondent
|Respondent Group||Yes||%||No||%||Number responded||No response|
|Third Sector Organisations||19||66%||10||34%||29||1|
|Community Planning Partnerships||2||25%||6||75%||8||1|
|Other Public Sector||2||18%||9||82%||11||0|
32. Respondents were asked to explain the reasons for their answer, and most of those who addressed the question did so, though a number referred to the answer they had given in response to Question 1.
The drawbacks of not using a statutory form
33. As stated above, 58% of those who answered Question Two stated a form should be used.
34. As under Question One a large number of respondents stressed the importance of consistency and the benefits that a statutory form would bring. Respondents pointed towards the benefits of a consistent approach to help with gathering information, assessing the request and making decisions, especially when the initial decision is about whether it is made by a Community Participation Body and whether the request meets statutory requirements. A standard form would also help to ensure that all requests are dealt with openly and fairly, can be routed to the correct organisation/part of an organisation and is responsive to local needs.
35. A number of respondents also mentioned that, while a form should be used, they highlighted the importance of the support and assistance for community groups in the completion of any necessary forms.
36. For those supportive of the requirement for a statutory form, further suggestions and issues raised included:
- The example of what a statutory form may look like, as set out in Annex B to the consultation, seemed simple and manageable for participation bodies to complete. Guidance providing details and examples on how to fill in the form would further ensure that the statutory form would not act as a barrier to communities making requests.
- If there is no form then it is possible that some community bodies may not provide the information required, particularly if the requirements of a participation request have not been well publicised by public bodies.
- An electronic or paper trail will be vital for ensuring guidelines around response times are upheld. Therefore forms submitted by email or post should be the only method of participation request permitted.
- Informal engagement with communities should not be discouraged or over-bureaucratised
- In practice, a two-stage process might be sensible. Guidance could encourage community bodies to get in touch with an appropriate officer in a public body to informally discuss the issues involved and whether a participation request was the best course of action. If the community body then decided a formal request should be submitted then this should be done through a standard form.
- Not requiring a statutory form will increase the likelihood of refusals. Although some community bodies may not like forms, it will ensure that necessary information is given in a standardized way that makes evaluation more straightforward and equal. If not, it will be easier for public service authorities to not assess applications adequately and fairly.
Benefits of, and reasons for, having no requirement for a form
37. Many respondents focussed on the benefits that a more flexible approach would bring for community groups:
- It should be possible for a community body to put in a participation request using its own preferred method of communication. This should promote an inclusive approach to receiving requests.
- This is new and there is no experience of the problems that may arise in the processes and procedures designed to ensure the rights and wishes of community groups to participate in the decisions that affect them. Maximum flexibility would perhaps be sensible.
- Verbal and face-to-face communication can be easier for some people with learning disabilities and is sometimes their preferred means of communication. A more flexible approach and alternatives to a statutory form should be available for groups who may find a statutory form challenging. This should enable people from a range of different backgrounds and experiences to benefit from the legislation. Any form should act as a guide to make the process as open as possible for community groups to engage in.
38. Additional comments made by respondents who indicated that a statutory form was not necessary included:
- There may be advantages in allowing for a community body initiating the process without using a form at that stage, in order to facilitate groups and communities that are less confident to make use of the participation request process. This could enable the start of a dialogue including discussion on what support the community body needs.
- As an initial expression of interest a letter or statement could be used at the earliest stage. A form could then be used to focus thinking and formalise the approach.
- The community body should be required to submit their request in writing and state that it is a participation request under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
- Some partners highlighted the example of Freedom of Information Requests (which can be submitted in any format and must be interpreted widely to fully support the applicants) as an example of both the benefits and disbenefits of not using forms - particularly differences in interpretation which may result in delay for applicants or additional resource burden for authorities.
- The guidance could stipulate that services must work with such bodies for a sufficient period of time to help them develop their request and submit the forms, perhaps following the completion of an expression of interest. A similar process of informal discussion exists pre-submission of Community Asset Transfer forms.
- The onus should be on the public service to gather the
standard information as needed in the form directly from the
community member or group. Considering that the purpose of
Participation Requests is to encourage participation among
communities who may not be traditionally heard or recognised,
this flexibility within the request process is reasonable.
Special Circumstances for not using a statutory form
39. It was perhaps expected that the answers to this question would to a large extent mirror the responses to Question One with those who had believed the use of a statutory form should be required would express the view that it should not be possible for a community body to put in a participation request without using a form.
40. This was largely the case, however, a number of respondents who had responded that the use of a statutory form should be required also expressed the view in response to Question Two that it should be possible for community body to put in a participation request without using a form. Many of those who responded in this way commented that in exceptional or special circumstances then the community participation body should be able to submit a participation request without the use of a statutory fund. Respondents suggested that these special circumstances could include issues such as visual impairment, communication difficulties, access to technology, capacity or the content of the request.
41. Respondents also suggested alternative means that a request could be made such as through meetings or a telephone call should that remove the accessibility barrier. One respondent suggested that it should be possible for community organisations to have the form completed by someone advocating on their behalf.
Question 3: What information might a statutory form include
42. Question 3 asked:
"What else might a statutory form usefully cover beyond the example set out in Annex B?"
43. Almost all of the respondents (86%) answered question 3, though a number replied with 'no comment' and a number commented that they were content with the example of a statutory form set out in annex B and offered no further input.
44. A good number of respondents commented on the content of the example and suggested amendments to improve the form. This included changes and additions to include: more information on contact details; date of the submission; constitution and governance structure of the community body; how to measure the success of the proposal; social media; description of their community; and any community consultation and engagement undertaken by the community body in support of the participation request.
45. A few respondents warned that any additions to the form should be made carefully to avoid creating a further barrier to making a participation request.
46. It was suggested that the form provides an opportunity for the community body to provide information about any support needs they have identified that would allow them to participate. This could include issues to do with accessibility, language support and help understanding the process. The ability to raise such issues early on will reduce the need for the community body to request support later on, and mean that important information relating to the request and any support needs is kept in one consistent location.
47. The form should allow community groups to attach additional evidence in relation to the participation request. This could be for questions relating to their knowledge, expertise, and experience and why they should be able to participate in an outcome improvement process.
48. The importance of the language used in the form and that it needed to be more user friendly and jargon free was widely supported. The guidance notes need to better explain the process and definitions, as some community bodies may not know to look at the guidance or legislation. Clear, concise explanation is needed, along with user-friendly definitions of key terms used throughout the process. In particular, clearer explanation is required surrounding terms such as outcomes, provision of service, public service authorities, and what is a community body.
Involvement of multiple public service authorities - timescale to respond
49. This section presents the findings relating to question 4 covering the timescale for additional public service authorities to respond.
Question 4: timescale for additional public service authorities to respond
50. Question 4 asked:
"Is 14 days a reasonable amount of time for additional public service authorities to respond? (Yes/No) If not, please suggest an alternative timescale and explain reasons for the change."
51. Most of the respondents (89%) addressed question 4. Of these, the majority (58%) answered no, expressing the view that 14 days was too short and more time would be required under the regulations. However, there was a tendency for individuals, Third Sector Organisations, Community Groups to agree this was sufficient time.
52. The respondents suggested increases in the timescale ranging from 14 working days to 3 months. The majority of responses suggested an increase in the time to respond of between 20 and 30 days.
Table 4: Timescale for additional public service authorities to respond by respondent
|Respondent Group||Yes||%||No||%||Number responded||No response|
|Third Sector Organisations||14||58%||10||42%||24||6|
|Community Planning Partnerships||5||56%||4||44%||9||0|
|Other Public Sector||4||40%||6||60%||10||1|
Reasons against a 14 day timescale for additional public service authorities to respond
53. Most respondents who answered 'no' provided their reasoning which included:
- The additional authority might require a Management Board/Council level decision whether or not they wished to participate. 14 days is insufficient time to allow the process to be completed and would need a considerable time extension.
- A 14 day response time could be difficult to maintain during holiday periods, periods of organisational change, staff absence or where some negotiation on bodies that are in scope needs to take place
- For consistency, the response time should be equivalent to other legislation such as the 20 days provided for in Freedom of Information legislation
- 14 days, whilst a reasonable target, may not be long enough to let the public service authority ( PSA) receive and assess the application then send it to another PSA, if necessary, before arriving at a decision
- If the request raises significant issues for the public service authority, it would be useful for the public service authority to be able to extend the 14 day period to arrive at a decision on the request. This would require the provision of a reasoned, written notification to the Community Participation Body within say, seven days.
- We believe giving additional public service authorities three weeks instead of two will allow bodies to thoughtfully evaluate applications and conduct the necessary planning and research needed to adequately consider the request.
Promoting the use of participation requests
54. This section presents the findings relating to question 5 covering promotion by public service authorities of participation requests.
55. Question 5 asked:
"What, if any, are the particular/specific ways that public service authorities should promote the use of participation requests?"
56. Almost all respondents (97%) answered this question.
57. There were a range of responses and commentary provided by the respondents. However, the majority of respondents suggested that the public service authority should have a designated page/portal to promote participation requests on their websites.
58. Respondents also suggested that public service authorities should use a variety of other mechanisms to promote participation requests, these included promotion through:
- Social media
- Local press and/or local radio
- Community newsletters
- Information available in community spaces, e.g. posters in libraries' community and leisure centres
- Community councils
- The Third Sector Interface and other partner organisations
- Community focussed third party and umbrella body websites and newsletters
- Roadshows and community based events
- Community Learning and Development practitioners
- Surgeries held by local elected members, MSPs and MPs
- Customer service charter
59. Suggestions were also made as to how the promotion of participation requests might work, e.g. public service authorities should publicise successful examples of participation requests to show community groups what is involved and confirm that public bodies are engaging with the participation request process. Also that any promotion should identify and support that can be provided and signpost to relevant third sector organisations that may be able to assist community bodies in preparing their applications.
60. A number of respondents suggested during the development of local policy and service design and delivery by the public service authority there should be a requirement on public bodies to promote the use of participation requests. It was also commented that public service authorities should ensure a high level of awareness within their own staff teams, particularly those who work directly with communities, third sector organisations or other community advocates.
61. A further proposal was that there needs to be a nationally supported and resourced strategy for promoting participation requests and the Scottish Government may wish to consider advertising Participation Requests so that they are more widely known about.
62. While the majority of respondents were positive about the need to promote participation requests, some commented that there were risks involved, in particular noting that public service authorities' resources are already limited and increasingly stretched. The proper and thorough undertaking of participation requests by public service authorities should take precedence over the promotion of requests by public service authorities. Also certain forms of promotion may inadvertently encourage communities to engage via participation requests rather than more relevant existing processes.
63. A few respondents commented that regulations were not required. Whilst public service authorities should promote the use of participation requests, there should be no particular/specific ways that public service authorities need to do this. Guidance could cover promotion rather than regulations.
Supporting the use of participation requests
64. This section presents the findings relating to question 6 covering support by public service authorities of participation requests.
65. Question 6 asked:
"What are the ways that public service authorities should support community participation bodies to make a participation request and participate in an outcome improvement process that should be set out in the regulations?"
66. Almost all respondents (94%) answered this question.
67. It was widely suggested that a single point of contact would be helpful in supporting community bodies to make a participation request. The focus at this stage would be on developing a request and completing and submitting any necessary forms. At this point, additional support needs may also be highlighted including interpretation support, advocacy and help making the request in a different, more suitable, format.
68. A number of respondents suggested that the third sector and advocacy organisations should have a role to play in the support provided to community bodies in making a request and during the process. In particular it was suggested that Third Sector Interfaces were well placed to play this supporting role and would also be independent of the authorities.
69. The National Standards of Community Engagement were mentioned by a number of respondents and the principles outlined in the National Standards should underpin participation request activity by the public service authority. The principles highlighted were:
- Support: working with the community body to identify and overcome barriers to participation.
- Sharing information: ensuring that the community body has access to the information that it needs to participate effectively, provided in good time and in formats that are accessible.
- Improvement: working with the community body to develop actively the skills, knowledge and confidence of all the participants to a level that enables them to participate effectively. The precise nature of the capacity building support required would be the subject of negotiation.
70. The need for more resources was highlighted. This was in terms of the additional resources required for public service authorities to support community bodies throughout the process and community bodies in making the request and during any outcome improvement process. It was suggested that this could potentially be a significant resource requirement if, for example, a local authority was dealing simultaneously with many requests.
71. A few of the respondents suggested that any support requirements should be dealt with by non-statutory guidance rather than regulations, and that different approaches may be more or less suitable in differing public sector authorities. The Regulations should not be overly prescriptive about the levels and methods of support that should be provided to community participation bodies because the levels of support required will vary significantly depending on:
- The level of experience, existing capacity within the community participation body and other sources of support that may be available from elsewhere
- The nature and scale of the Outcome Improvement Process - for example, it is anticipated that considerably more support will be required if the Community Participation Body is looking to take over service delivery responsibility.
72. Several respondents commented that the regulations might require the public service authority to identify and discuss with individual community participation bodies at the outset the levels and nature of support that they require and would find beneficial. Being prescriptive around how this support should work by including it within the regulations may constrain the level and type of support available rather than more innovative approaches which could be developed with the community participation body.
Additional support for communities
73. This section presents the findings relating to question 7 covering the types of community that may need additional support to form participation bodies, make participation requests and participate in the outcome improvement process.
74. Question 7 asked:
"What types of communities could the regulations specify that may need additional support? Please give reasons for your response."
75. Almost all respondents (92%) answered this question.
Reasons for specifying particular types of communities who may need additional support
76. There was support from some for the Regulations to specify groups with protected characteristics under the Equalities Act as they may well be at a disadvantage in attempting to put forward participation requests.
77. Other respondents were more specific and mentioned communities could include those with language or literacy difficulties, for example communities in which English is commonly not the members' first language. Also people with disabilities were mentioned by a number of respondents as requiring additional support due to their disability.
78. Deprivation and socio-economic disadvantage was also mentioned as communities in more deprived areas may often need more assistance to form a community participation body and then engage a public authority in the participation request process.
79. Other communities or community groups highlighted as potentially in need of additional support due to reasons of disadvantage or vulnerability included:
- The elderly who may have specific needs related to ageing
- Community Councils
- Groups of people who suffer from health problems which could prevent them from making requests without support
- Parents and families
- Gypsy travellers
- Young people
- People with mental health issues
- Homeless people
- Tenants groups
- Groups in super sparse areas with less direct access to public bodies staff members
- Un-constituted community bodies
- Dispersed rural communities
80. A variety of reasons were given for these groups requiring additional support. It was suggested that disadvantaged communities are more likely to have fewer skills, less confidence and less well-developed and connected community organisations. Without support in place for these communities, the function of participation requests will be undermined as many communities will not be in such a strong starting position to contribute effectively to improving outcomes.
81. It was thought that there is a risk that participation requests, at least in the early stages, may come only from community bodies that are already well-placed to participate (e.g. they have the skills and resources needed to work with a public service authority and make a formal request). These bodies might not be those representing communities that are suffering from inequalities or disadvantage. That is why there will need to be additional support for those communities who are experiencing greater inequality of outcome and higher levels of deprivation, which will require to be resourced.
Reasons against specifying particular types of communities who may need additional support
82. A number of respondents commented on potential difficulties that they believe may arise if the regulations specify communities that may need additional support. This included:
- Support should be assessed and decided locally and there is a danger if a generic approach, particularly in rural areas, of excluding community participation bodies that may not be listed
- Participants may at risk of being stigmatised through being identified in the regulations as a community which may require additional support
- Almost all communities will require additional support at some stage, it isn't appropriate to make sweeping assumptions about certain community types
- The regulations should not be prescriptive in this area. The broad commitment should be to provide additional support to all of those who may need it in order to participate effectively.
83. It was suggested by these respondents that this may be better covered through guidance and encouraging good practice, rather than through regulations. It was also suggested that encouraging a wide range of approaches may lead to more innovative approaches being developed.
84. Some respondents suggested that if regulations specify which communities should be targeted then additional funding should be made available for public service authorities in order to resource this on a larger scale than they are currently able. Concerns were expressed that without more resource then the regulations may reinforce inequalities in access to and influence on public services across different communities as only those who have the most power and capacity will be able to exercise this right.
Making the decision
85. This sections presents the findings relating to questions 8 and 9 covering the timescale for making a decision and any additional information that should be in a decision notice.
Question 8: Timescale for making a decision
86. Question 8 asked:
"How long should the public service authority have to assess the participation request and give notice to the community participation body? Is 30 days a reasonable amount of time? If not, how long should the period for making a decision be? Please give reasons for your response."
87. Most respondents (87%) addressed question 6. Of these the majority (58%) answered yes, expressing the view that 30 days was a reasonable amount of time. The exception here was from local authorities, where a majority did not agree.
Table 5. Timescale for making a decision by respondent
|Respondent Group||Yes||%||No||%||Number responded||No response|
|Third Sector Organisations||13||57%||10||43%||23||7|
|Community Planning Partnerships||8||89%||1||11%||9||0|
|Other Public Sector||5||56%||4||44%||9||2|
Reasons for 30 days being reasonable
88. From the comments provided by those supporting that 30 days was a reasonable timescale it was clear they considered this as a reasonable period given that the initial assessment is designed to take people to the start of a dialogue. It should allow time for adequate consultation, discussion and formulation of the response from the public service authority.
89. However, some suggested that, although 30 days was a reasonable amount of time, there may need to be exceptions to this, including:
- There should be the ability to extend the time frame by mutual agreement between the public service authority and the community participation body
- Should additional information be requested from the applicants, the clock should stop until this has been received
- Depending on the need to involve another Public Service Authority(s) and the extent of its complexity, a clause giving the option to extend this would be desirable
- There may be circumstances where a request is made that is time critical and to wait 30 days would mean that the request was no longer valid
- There is always the possibility that the participation of a particular community body in a particular process might require a change in Council policy, which would need to go to committee and would require a longer lead time
Reasons for 30 days not being reasonable
90. Almost all of those respondents who expressed a view that 30 days was not a reasonable amount of time to give notice to the community participation body of its decision believed it should be longer than 30 days. Only a very small number felt it should be shorter. A couple of themes emerged; firstly that decisions needed to be authorised via authorities' relevant governing structures (e.g. elected Councillors or the Management Board); secondly that there may be complex cases which might involve multiple public service authorities. Both situations would lead to more time likely to be required.
91. In particular some local authority respondents highlighted that the nature of the decision would require to be taken by elected members and 30 days would be unlikely to be met by the current arrangements that they have in place.
It was suggested that the timescale be increased to 45-60 days. Also, that integration with the typical statutory routines - committee meetings cycle - should be considered and mitigated where possible with schemes of delegation to speed up the process.
92. It was widely commented that, while 30 days may be enough time for simple cases, if the case was more complicated then regulations should be flexible to provide for longer than 30 days, with proposals to increase this to 42-60 days, 30 working days or else have a tailored timescale depending on the nature of the request It was also suggested that the timescale should be able to be increased if the community participation body agreed to an increase in the timescale for a response.
93. It was suggested that public service authorities may need time to explore the request with the community participation body, partner agencies and other bodies with an interest in the outcome to understand any background behind a request and carefully consider the best way to progress. Also, complex cases may be due to the request being dealt with by multiple public service authorities and suggested that the time to respond should be increased to ensure proper consideration and planning is given to each request.
94. It was highlighted that there were risks associated with implementing a timescale which is too tight. There is a danger that participation requests could be refused because public service authorities have not had enough time to properly consider the request and plan. It may also lead to frustration on the part of the Community Participation Body where the timescale is missed.
Less Time than 30 days
95. A couple of respondents suggested that 30 days was too long and public service authorities should be required to respond quicker. It was considered that a shorter period would still would provide sufficient time for public service authorities to assess participation requests. Also, the Community Participation Body would likely want to be able take forward its efforts, ideas and engagement as quickly as possible.
Decision notice - additional information
96. This section presents the findings relating to question 9 which asked if there were any additional information requirements that should be included within a decision notice.
97. Question 9 asked:
"Are there any additional information requirements that should be included in connection with a decision notice? Please give reasons for your response."
98. Most respondents (84%) answered this question.
99. A number of respondents had either no comment or stated that the information contained within the regulations was sufficient. These respondents expressed the general view that the requirement to provide the community participation body with the decision notice and to publish this on a website was sufficient. If the decision is to refuse the request then the reasons for this will have to be given. If the participation request is agreed then information on the process and the involvement of the community participation body will have to be outlined. There is also provision for the community participation body to propose changes to the outcome improvement process.
100. A large number of respondents commented that it was important that a decision notice clearly explains the reasons for refusing a request. Respondents also made a number of suggestion for additional information that such a decision notice could contain, including:
- Contact details within the public service authority to provide clarification if required
- Information on what the community can do if they are dissatisfied with the decision to refuse and if the public service authority has established any internal review process or the ability to use the public service authorities complaints' procedure
- Signposting to additional sources of support and guidance to improve the application
- Information on any decision making panel to encourage accessibility and transparency
- An invitation to receive fuller feedback
- Information on how the public service authority will mitigate the relevant issues of inequality raised by the community body in the participation request
- The reasons for what constitutes "reasonable grounds for refusal"
- Any specific policies or criteria that have been applied as part of their decision making process
101. If the decision notice was agreed, suggestions were also made about additional information that such a decision notice could contain, including:
- What is available for that participation (financial and practical) so the community participation body can plan ahead to take part properly
- Brief details of next steps, i.e. contact details and a timescale for initial contact/meeting
- Information on how the community body will be supported to participate in the outcome improvement process or where community bodies can seek external support
- Full details of the request, the community body and contact details so that other members of that community may seek further information from the community body or seek to become involved if it is an issue which affects them
102. One respondent suggested that it would be helpful if an open online portal was created containing an accessible archive of previous applications, supporting information and decision notices. This will assist communities in refining future applications and sharing good practice However, A couple of respondents mentioned the potential need for confidentiality. It was suggested that having full details of a participation request published and available for other to see may put bodies off using them. A community body should be able to request to be listed anonymously.
Outcome Improvement Process - Additional Information
103. This section presents the findings relating to questions 10 and 11 covering the additional information that may be required in relation to the outcome improvement process.
Question 10: additional information in relation to the outcome improvement process
104. Question 10 asked:
"What other information, if any, should the regulations specify should be published in relation to the proposed outcome improvement process? Please give reasons for your response."
105. Most respondents (80%) answered this question.
106. A widely expressed view was that the information contained in the regulations was sufficient and a few commented that adding further information would make the process unduly bureaucratic. However, a number of suggestions were made for additional information by several respondents, including:
- The contact details of a single point of contact for the group in the lead public service authority to ensure straightforward engagement with the community body
- The timescale for the outcome improvement process should be published to help keep the community informed and reassured that progress was being made
- Information on the support available for the community participation body to participate
- The evaluative and monitoring processes being used, to show how the impact of the process is being monitored and measured
- An outcome improvement may take place over a long period of time and so regular updates should also be provided by the public service authority
107. Further suggestions included:
- A summary of representations received and detail of how the process now differs from that originally proposed described previously by the public service authority under section 25 of the Act
- Public service authorities should state how learning will be captured, shared, and incorporated into future planning. Publishing details of how learning will be captured will increase transparency and accountability and make it more likely that community bodies feel they have control over the process
- Information relating to the outcome improvement process should, like the Participation Request form and guidance, be available in a range of formats and Plain English
- The business sector will have interests that will have to be taken into account. For example, in the case of Business Improvement Districts. In a BID, if there is a request for participation in a local service, issues may arise where a local authority has already entered into a service agreement with a private sector partner
- Every process should include a public event, probably led by the community organisation, to ensure the process involves, as much as possible, the wider local community directly affected by the service provision
- The sanctions that could be applied where stated outcome improvements do not happen and detail of how communities can raise lack of progress in an outcome improvement process
- Official signatures should be required from all parties involved to show that that all partners were involved and are in agreement regarding the outcome improvement process
- Information on how inequalities are being/have been addressed through the outcome improvement process.
108. The issue of confidentiality was highlighted again with a couple of respondents commenting that there is an assumption in the draft, that the community participation body making the proposal wants it publicised. This might not always be the case. In certain exceptional circumstances e.g. where the group represents a small and potentially vulnerable group of service users, who are concerned about privacy, we suggest they should be entitled to at least ask for their involvement to remain private and confidential.
109. One respondent commented that the draft regulation requiring public service authorities to publish every detail of the proposed process seemed unduly prescriptive and would likely to lead to unnecessary bureaucracy.
Question 11: additional information in relation to a modified outcome improvement process
110. Question 11 asked:
"What other information, if any, should the regulations specify should be published in relation to the modified outcome improvement process? Please give reasons for your response."
111. Most respondents (77%) answered this question.
112. As for question 10, there were a large number of respondents expressed the view that the information contained in the regulations was sufficient.
113. A number of suggestions for additional information were made by multiple respondents, including:
- Reasons why the outcome improvement process was modified for clarity and transparency
- The evaluative and monitoring processes being used to understand how the impact of the process is being monitored and measured
- The date upon which the modification took place
- The timescale for the modified outcome improvement process
114. Respondents also made a number of other suggestions, including:
- A summary of representations received and detail of how the process now differs from that originally proposed described previously by the public service authority under section 28 of the Act
- The outcomes from any new processes should be monitored to evaluate progress against delivery
- The contact details of the responsible officers in the lead public service authority to ensure straightforward engagement for the community participation body
- Official signatures should be required from all parties involved to show that that all partners were involved and are in agreement regarding the modified outcome improvement process
- Information on how inequalities are being/have been addressed through the outcome improvement process
- Who the community participation body was representing e.g. how many people, how did they engage with the group to seek views?
Information in Reports
115. This section presents the findings relating to question 12 covering the additional information that may be required in relation to reports on the outcome improvement process.
116. Question 12 asked:
"Section 31 sets out the aspects that the report of the outcome improvement process must contain. What other information, if any, should the regulations require the report include? Please give reasons for your response.
117. Most respondents (80%) answered this question.
118. A large number of respondents expressed the view that the information contained in the regulations was sufficient. A few respondents commented that it may be too soon to properly ascertain whether the outcome has been improved.
119. A number of suggestions for additional information were made by multiple respondents, including:
- Any improvements that need to be made for future outcome improvement processes and identify key lessons that need to be applied. This evaluation approach is important in developing this approach
- Highlight changes/improvements that are going to continue or be made as a result of the process and indicate why and over what timeframe any further improvement to outcomes would be expected
- The views of the community body should be included in the published report as this would offer transparency in relation to each request
120. Respondents made a number of other suggestions, including:
- Authorities should be required to include in the report details of any arrangements they consider appropriate to measure, monitor and publicise future improvement of the outcome
- It should detail any additional supports that were put in place to enable participation to demonstrate how inclusive the process was
- Record any changes made in response to the participation and /or issues raised in participation which were not able to be addressed
- Greater emphasis on how the improvement process has addressed inequality
- The report could also indicate where community participation has increased as a result of the Participation Request, or where additional unanticipated benefits have arisen
- Information on how the community can remain as an active participant and partner in continuing to ensure the outcomes improvement
121. A few respondents commented on the need for additional resources required to produce the outcome report. It was suggested that there is a risk that the additional requirements will divert staff away from engagement with community groups if the output is focused on the production of published reports.
122. Question 13 asked:
"Do you have any other comments on the draft Participation Request (Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2016?".
123. Respondents used this question to raise more general issues relating to participation more broadly, as well as reiterating themes and issues already covered in the specific questions. No new themes arose in relation to the proposed participation request regulations.
Email: Ian Turner