The subsequent section presents recommendations related to participation requests. These recommendations are proposed to facilitate the achievement of the longer-term intended outcomes of participation requests as set out in the policy documents. Our recommendations are targeted at two key stakeholder groups involved in the participation request process: the Scottish Government and public service authorities.
Recommendations for the Scottish Government:
1. To monitor the impact of Part 3 of the Act, including longer-term outcomes of the legislation, the government should ensure that public service authorities meet statutory annual reporting duties. This process can be facilitated by developing clear and consistent reporting techniques (for example, development of a reporting template that indicates the level of detail to be provided by public service authorities) and defining where public service authority reports should be submitted. Ongoing and improved reporting will enable future assessments of the longer-term impact of participation requests.
2. To support public service authorities in encouraging the participation of marginalised and disadvantaged communities, the Scottish Government should continue to work with its partners to identify actions that may help to overcome any barriers to participation of marginalised groups or disadvantaged communities, where these consider that participation requests could be useful to their aims. Specifically, the Scottish Government could develop more accessible information and guidance about participation requests (for example, translation, easy read documents) for use across public service authorities.
3. Given that there is no appeals process for Part 3 of the Act, the possibility of an appeals process should be explored and aspects of how it could work investigated. The challenges of making an appeals process robust and fair should also be explored. This should be kept under review as the data on the numbers of participation requests, acceptances and refusals develop.
4. To avoid a situation in which public service authorities view participation requests as a failure of other engagement mechanisms, it is important to support public service authorities in developing a better understanding of the intentions of Part 3 of the Act. Lack of understanding and support towards participation requests has the potential to create an environment in which participation requests are more likely to be refused, or not submitted. Such positions are contrary to the intention of the Act and may limit the achievement of intended outcomes.
Recommendations for public service authorities:
1. To facilitate submissions, public service authorities should identify a key internal contact person with responsibility for participation requests.This 'first point of contact', who understands the Act as well as community engagement and participation, would help to speed up the process, act as an effective conduit between community participation bodies and public service authority personnel, drive culture change in public service authorities and allow other public service authority personnel to focus on other responsibilities.
2. Wider promotion of participation requests to raise internal and external awareness of Part 3 of the Act is needed. This can happen through disseminating the policy intent of participation requests, making explicit the objectives of an outcome improvement process, and making clear the range of community groups that can use participation requests. Finally, given that most participation requests are received by local authorities, other types of public service authorities (for example, health boards and regional transport partnerships) should be more proactive in raising awareness of participation requests.
3. Considering equality issues, public service authorities should encourage groups from marginalised communities to take part in processes and contribute to developing services that effectively support their needs. This can happen through an active promotion of Part 3 of the Act with relevant communities, as well as developing more tailored and accessible participation mechanisms including translations and easy read documents.