In the past 12 months the GMSWA has made considerable efforts to involve SUCs There is representation on the Governance Board and the Executive Board. The Public Involvement Board was established (the service users and carers forum) and there are opportunities for service users and carers to be involved in all the planning groups and work streams.
A key issue for me is whether the GMSWA is meeting the challenge of meaningfully involving individuals. This is going to be even more testing with the likely restrictions on spending. It is difficult to avoid the usual problems where carers and service users can feel they are on the periphery with many discussions going over their heads with some topics appearing irrelevant or difficult to understand. Barriers include complex language, unfamiliar concepts and the use of acronisms.
These issues have affected the Public Involvement Board as well as other meetings even though the Chairperson has excellent communication skills and has a flair for engaging individuals. Another challenge is involving a wide enough range of different experiences amongst the carers and users of services, including underrepresented groups.
Key questions include: are users of services and carers helping to set the GMSWA Agenda or is this solely set by the professionals with carers and service users responding? Also are there opportunities for carers and service users to have in depth discussions on the issues that are important to them. Having an agenda item such as ? service user issues? at all meetings should help to focus on ways of consulting and involving service users more effectively but perhaps more needs to be done to ensure that service user involvement has a positive effect on developments and outcomes.
Terry Williams – Member of the Public Involvement Board and new Member of the Executive Board