Monthly Archives: May 2013

Why participation is brilliant

This blog post is my last piece of work for Participation Cymru, and I just want to say a big thank you to everyone I’ve worked with over the last three years.  My colleagues at Participation Cymru are incredibly committed individuals. It’s been inspiring watching my fellow staff work their socks off, which as a small team working on a national basis has never been anything less than vital.


Wales Council for Voluntary Action hosts our project, and I’ve been based here even longer (eight years to the month). I never thought I’d end up training and facilitating when I started working here as an Administrative Assistant on the Helpdesk.

Whilst working for Participation Cymru I’ve met some fantastic staff at many a public service organisation, who are determined to open up decision making where they work. I’ve met so many great people from a variety of fields around Wales that are passionate about ensuring that public services are both transparent and accountable.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve really enjoyed the practical work we’ve done with citizens around Wales. I’ve met so many committed people who have been more than ready to give their time to try and make public services and society in general better. It’s for this reason that the most memorable piece of work I’ve been part of has been the Citizen Panel for Social Services in Wales.

Involve have written a great pamphlet on participation called From Fairy Tale to Reality. The pamphlet debunks myths about why participation isn’t practical, including that:

  • engagement is too expensive
  • citizen’s aren’t up to it
  • engagement only works for easy issues
  • citizen power is a floodgate we should avoid at all costs
  • citizens don’t want to be involved, they just want good service

When I watched members of the panel online giving evidence to the National Assembly for Wales’ Health and Social Care committee on 16 May, the panel members dispel these myths one by one – they speak about direct payments (which could make services cheaper as they’re tailored to people’s needs), they have awareness around the issues of the service they access, they dissect a very complex and weighty bill, they provide considered and detailed responses and they very much want their voices to be heard.

Even if you gave me a list of points that the panel covered, I wouldn’t have the direct experience to truly dissect the points and flaws half as effectively as they do, as they encounter these on a day to day basis. I can definitely say that I wouldn’t be able to speak about these points as movingly or as passionately as the panel does.

When I watched the panel give evidence it really hit home how public services can only truly meet people’s needs when we ask people what their needs are, and that we then work with them to change public services.

–      Dyfrig