Cumbria Compact Planning & Consultation Code of Practice Introduction
The Cumbria Compact The Cumbria Compact is an agreement between the Third Sector and statutory organisations in Cumbria. It explains how they plan to work together, and contains a number of commitments. The Cumbria Compact, including an up to date list of the statutory organisations that have „signed up‟ to its commitments, can be downloaded from the Cumbria County Council website (http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/communityinformation/voluntary/volsector.asp). There are a number of Codes of Practice linked to the Cumbria Compact. These aim to give more information about the commitments of the Cumbria Compact, and concentrate on the practical details of how the commitments can be turned into reality. The first Codes of Practice will be: Funding and Procurement Planning and Consultation Equality and Diversity Volunteers
Additional Codes of Practice may be developed in time. The Planning and Consultation Code of Practice This Code of Practice aims to make a positive impact on the way in which statutory organisations plan and consult on their services in respect of the Third Sector. It gives good practice guidelines for both statutory and third sector organisations and then outlines the structures that exist to support this process in Cumbria.
The key commitments
The Cumbria Compact contains the following commitments around planning and consultation: The Third Sector can be one route to user and community views. If organisations are to be able to accurately reflect these views they need time to consult with those they represent. Partners will work together to draw up strategic plans. A minimum consultation period of 12 weeks will be given when a major service change is proposed, in line with the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation. Cumbria Compact – Planning & Consultation Code of Practice February 2008 1
What is planning? What is consultation?
There are many different types of planning. This could range from the development of the Local Area Agreement (a countywide agreement covering public service priorities) to planning the coordination of health and social care services in a local area. There are also many ways of involving third sector organisations in that planning, and some methods may be more relevant than others in a given situation. It is likely to be easier to involve third sector organisations in long term planning than in the emergency planning that takes place in response to an unexpected event. However, there are many common principles for achieving effective involvement in all these circumstances. Some of these types of planning will involve a formal consultation at some stage of their development. When the term “consultation” is used in this Code of Practice, it is referring to this formal consultation on a prepared plan. This is most likely to be a formal public consultation, but could also include consultation with a smaller clearly defined group (for example, consulting directly with the small number of users and providers of a specialist service) Formal consultation may take place at various stages of a planning process, and good involvement in planning may reduce (or in some circumstances, even remove) the need for formal consultation.
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Involvement in Planning
Guidelines for Statutory Sector Organisations Why involve Third Sector Organisations? In this document, the term 'Third Sector' includes voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutual societies. Faith organisations that are involved in community work are also considered part of the Third Sector. The sector includes groups that are managed and run entirely by volunteers, and organisations that employ paid staff. These organisations often have specialist knowledge, experience and skills; for example, a third sector organisation working in the field of disability will have specialist knowledge of disability legislation and access issues. This knowledge may come from direct experience as a service user and/or as a provider of services. Accessing this knowledge will help ensure that the services planned are relevant to potential users. Third sector organisations tend to have close relationships with their service users and are often a good route to the views of those users. However, they are not a substitute for direct user involvement where this is appropriate. Equally, on many occasions, third sector organisations will find it beneficial to involve statutory sector staff in the planning of their services in order to ensure that services are well coordinated. Working in Partnership “Partnership” is a term that is often used, but it can mean different things to different people. In order for third sector organisations to feel that they are true partners in the development of services, they need to feel that their views are valued, and the professionalism of the Third Sector is respected. If you are clear about the role you expect from third sector organisations it should help address some of their cynicism about becoming involved. Principles of good practice (& sources of information) There are many documents giving good guidelines on involving third sector organisations in the planning of statutory services. Some examples are listed in the appendix. A few key points to bear in mind are: Third sector organisations are asked to become involved in many planning processes and groups, and they may find it hard to prioritise. Try to give clear guidance on what you‟re trying to achieve, what kind of involvement you want (eg attending meetings, commenting on a written document, or getting user views) and the timescales. Cumbria Compact – Planning & Consultation Code of Practice February 2008 3
In general, Third Sector organisations will not be specifically funded to take place in planning processes, and so many, particularly smaller organisations, will find it hard to commit the resources to do so. They may have to choose between taking part in service planning and providing services to their clients. To help avoid this overload, make use of existing knowledge/reports where available and appropriate. It is easier for third sector organisations to plan their involvement if you have clear, published planning cycles (for example, as Health & Well-being Scrutiny Committee) Different organisations have differing capacity to participate. Some groups will be run entirely by volunteers, whilst others will employ staff. Think about what support you are able to offer (for example, can you offer travel expenses to volunteers, or provide printed papers to avoid volunteers having to print them off at home?). Consider going out to meet third sector groups, rather than inviting them to your meeting. Be clear about the extent to which third sector organisations can influence your policies Consider how you will evaluate the implementation of your policies: are the needs you have identified being met by the services procured to deliver them?
Choosing and working with representatives of the Third Sector It is often necessary to work with representatives from the Third Sector – it will not be practical to involve every third sector organisation in every meeting. However, it is important that these representatives have legitimacy, and that it is clear how they got there, who they represent, and how they communicate with their constituents. It is also important that they have the skills, knowledge and support to fulfil this role. This is much more likely to be the case when the sector has chosen its own representatives. More information on working with representatives is given in the section on “Involving the Third Sector in Cumbria”. Competitive Tendering However, when a service is likely to be put out to competitive tender, it is important to ensure that all potential providers have had the same opportunity to shape the tender specification, and no one organisation can be seen to have an advantage. In this situation, it would be good practice to give an opportunity for all potential provider organisations (third and private sector) to be involved in the planning of the service, perhaps by holding a bid conference. It is likely to be inappropriate to use one individual representing the whole Third Sector in this case; all interested organisations should have the opportunity to be directly involved if they so wish. More advice on the competitive tendering process can be obtained from Cumbria County Council‟s Strategic & Commercial Procurement Unit (contact details at the end of this Code of Practice). Cumbria Compact – Planning & Consultation Code of Practice February 2008 4
Guidelines for Third Sector Organisations Participating effectively in service planning Third sector organisations usually become involved in the planning of statutory services through a desire to improve services for the users/members of their organisation. These organisations often have ambitious ideas for redesigning services, and can end up disillusioned when local services appear to change little. It is generally helpful to be aware of the restraints and responsibilities on the statutory organisation(s) you are working with. What are their legal and financial obligations? To what extent are they free to make the changes your organisation would like to see? Are they trying to balance your desires with other (possibility competing) requests? You are most likely to bring about change if you are able to make positive suggestions within these restraints. You may find that the statutory organisation isn‟t free to make the kind of changes you would like to see in local services. In this case, there may be more effective ways to influence services – for example, joining forces with similar third sector organisations across the country to lobby for changes in national government policy. Representing the Third Sector If you are in the position of representing the Third Sector (rather than simply your own organisation), make use of existing networks to communicate with other groups and gather their views. More details are in the section “How to involve the Third Sector in Cumbria”.
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Involvement in Consultation
Guidelines for Statutory Sector Organisations When should we consult? There is no clear “best time” for formal consultation. You may decide to consult early on the broad direction of travel, or to wait until you have detailed plans to share. What is most important is that those you are consulting understand what stage plans are at, and the degree of influence they have over them. How should we consult? Once again, there are many other documents giving guidance on good practice in consultation. A good starting point is the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation (full details in appendix). Some key points to bear in mind are: 12 weeks is accepted as a reasonable minimum length of time for formal consultation. This may seem like a long time, but remember that many third sector organisations will want to talk to their members and users about the proposals. You may need to allow longer if your consultation period includes a holiday period. Ensure consultation documents are as clear as possible. For example: o Make sure they are written in clear language (see the Plain English Campaign guidelines – details in appendix) and in a suitable font o Make sure the document has a short summary o Make sure that the scope of the consultation is clear o Consider having the document „proof read‟ by a lay person – third sector organisations may be able to help with this o Consider having the consultation document available in alternative formats. This is particularly relevant when it can be predicted that a large number of people directly affected by the proposals will need an alternative format o Additional guidelines are given in the Consultation and Policy Appraisal Code of Practice for the National Compact o Included a named contact person who can answer queries about the consultation Use existing channels of communication with third sector organisations – see the section of this Code of Practice on “How to involve the Third Sector in Cumbria”. Consider if you should make special efforts to consult with minority or hard to reach groups who are likely to be affected by the proposals. Again, this may be an area where it is particularly useful to involve third sector organisations Be aware of other consultations taking place at the same time Ensure consultees receive feedback on the decisions made and how these were influenced by consultation responses. Evaluate the effectiveness of consultations to improve your performance next time Cumbria Compact – Planning & Consultation Code of Practice February 2008 6
Guidelines for Third Sector Organisations Participating effectively in formal consultations Formal consultations are an important chance to get your organisation‟s views on a proposal heard. In order to participate effectively: Submit a written response to the consultation – this is usually the only way to give your views. Make sure you understand the scope of the consultation. Comments on topics that are not part of the consultation are likely to just be ignored - look for other ways to feed these views into the planning process. Concentrate your efforts on the consultations that really matter to your organisation. If you don‟t understand the proposals, ask! Contact the statutory organisation with your queries, or try talking to other third sector organisations through the Third Sector Forum (see the section on “How to involve the Third Sector in Cumbria”). Attend meetings (such as public meetings or meetings for third sector organisations) if possible. Remember that consultation isn‟t voting. A large number of responses suggesting a particular course of action won‟t guarantee that it happens – but you can expect an explanation of the reason.
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How to involve the Third Sector in Cumbria
The “Third Sector” is a large and disparate group of organisations, and that can make it difficult to identify the organisations you should be involving in your consultations. However, there are networks and infrastructure organisations within the sector who can help you with this. Over the last couple of years, ChangeUp, through the Cumbria Voluntary and Community Sector Infrastructure Investment Plan, has led to a number of initiatives that will to improve support to third sector organisations in Cumbria. It is now becoming clearer how that work fits with other initiatives with the broad aim of developing third sector representation and community involvement in the planning of services. This is illustrated in the diagram below.
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Cumbria Third Sector Network Cumbria Third Sector Network will soon be established (as part of the Cumbria CVS service level agreement with Cumbria County Council) as the focus of consultation and engagement, and will give a strong voice for the Third Sector in Cumbria. It will comprise the broad and diverse range of third sector organisations (including community groups, social enterprises, faith groups and ethnic groups) working in Cumbria. They may or may not see themselves as requiring infrastructure support, but would benefit from the flow of information that Cumbria CVS membership will provide. They may wish to take part in consultation exercises, or ensure that their voice is heard in processes such as the Local Area Agreement. Specialist Reference Groups A number of specialist interests have been identified within the Third Sector Network. These are not mutually exclusive (an individual third sector organisation is likely to have an interest in more than one of these areas) and it is likely that additional interests may emerge in the future. These specialist interests are shown as the “slices” on the diagram on the previous page. Three of these areas have an associated county-wide infrastructure support organisation: Generic Third Sector Support – Cumbria CVS Children & Young People – Cumbria Youth Alliance Rurality – Voluntary Action Cumbria A mapping exercise has recently taken place to identify a reference group for each of these specialist interests. In some cases this reference group is very clear (for example, a Children and Young People‟s Voluntary/Community Sector Reference Group has existed for a number of years), and in other cases there is not such a clear fit. These specialist reference groups could provide Third Sector representation to external structures such as the Local Area Agreement, NHS or National Parks. They could also provide a mechanism for statutory agencies to consult with third sector organisations. Cumbria Third Sector Infrastructure Forum Cumbria Third Sector Infrastructure Forum was established to develop and coordinate infrastructure support and to ensure this is available to all voluntary and community organisations in Cumbria. It is envisaged that, in the future, it will comprise representatives from all the specialist reference groups and infrastructure support organisations. It is possible that its name will change to reflect this emerging structure. Cumbria Compact – Planning & Consultation Code of Practice February 2008 9
Cumbria CVS Cumbria CVS will provide generic infrastructure support to the Third Sector across the County. This support includes advice and information, training, ICT support, organisational development, representation and liaison, sector development, promotion, research and membership support. As part of that role, Cumbria CVS supports (and is part of) Cumbria Voluntary & Community Sector Infrastructure Forum and will develop and service the Cumbria Third Sector Forum. The process for involving Third Sector Organisations
Actions for Statutory Sector Organisations Contact Cumbria CVS (the organisation providing the administrative support to the Cumbria Third Sector Network & Cumbria Third Sector Infrastructure Forum) providing details of the involvement you‟d like from third sector organisations Cumbria CVS will pass the information on to the appropriate specialist reference group(s) – and ensure the topic is discussed at a Third Sector Infrastructure Forum meeting to ensure representatives of all the specialist reference groups have an opportunity to consider if the topic is relevant to their members. Specialist Reference Groups will inform their members, and elect a representative if appropriate.
Actions for Third Sector Organisations Make sure you are part of the relevant network(s) – contact Cumbria CVS for details of the network relating to each “slice”.
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Useful contacts Carolyn Otley Manager – Representation/Community Involvement Cumbria CVS 12a Selby Terrace Maryport Cumbria CA15 6NF (01900) 819191 firstname.lastname@example.org CarolynO@cumbriacvs.org.uk Georgina Ternent Programme Manager – Third Sector Development & Support Cumbria County Council Penrith Library St. Andrew's Churchyard Penrith CA11 7YA (01768) 242365
Alan Ratcliffe Head of Strategic & Commercial Procurement Cumbria County Council Barras Lane Dalston Carlisle CA5 7NY (01228) 607624 email@example.com
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How voluntary and community organisations can help transform public services (June 2006) A good summary of the ways in which Third Sector organisations may be able to contribute to the planning and delivery of public services, and how they can “add value” to these services. Available to download from the NCVO website (14 pages): www.ncvo-vol.org.uk Commissioning Framework for Health & Wellbeing (March 07) Department of Health consultation document Strengthening Accountability Section 11 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 - the duty on the NHS to involve and consult patients and the public in service planning, operation and in the development of proposals for changes. www.dh.gov.uk Agreement between NHS and Cumbria County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee A Healthy Outlook : Local Authority Overview and Scrutiny of Health 1 st Nov 2001 This paper is for local authorities and NHS bodies. It aims to provide a framework for local discussions about the health scrutiny role, highlighting key decision points and outlining possible approaches. On the basis of discussions with local stakeholders, the paper also suggests potential issues for inclusion in government regulations and guidance. www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports
Consultation and Policy Appraisal National Compact Code of Practice (20 pages) www.thecompact.co.uk Plain English Campaign The Plain English Campaign website contains information about how to write clear documents. www.plainenglish.co.uk
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