Continuing the series of guest blogs in support of the forthcoming Scrutiny in the Spotlight conference. We’d like to share with you some greater detail of one of the workshops. Its about how the National Assembly for Wales encourages greater participation in committee scrutiny. We feel these approaches could be adapted to suit the approaches of local government and other public services in Wales. Have a read and see what you think.
On Thursday the 28th of November the National Assembly for Wales are going to be taking part in the Scrutiny in the Spotlight Conference at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff. Two workshops will be held to discuss the issue of ‘participation in scrutiny’ which will be delivered by Kevin Davies, a member of the Assembly’s Communications department with the remit of encouraging greater participation in committee scrutiny, and Virginia Hawkins who has worked at the Assembly for 10 years, and during that time has been involved in all aspects of scrutiny, from a Clerking, Research and Communications perspective.
The National Assembly has over the past two years changed its approach to Communicating to focus much more on the work that the Assembly is doing at the time, and talking to specific groups of people who are likely to have an interest in the subject matter, acting as a conduit to get more people involved in scrutiny. In doing so we utilise an in-house online toolkit, which outlines the ways in which we can engage with people outside of the traditional methods of contributing to scrutiny at the Assembly, namely writing in or being invited to give evidence. We know that a large proportion of people may not even know that certain inquiries are even taking place, and that certain audiences are not comfortable in contributing in that way. The options we have available to people range from conferences, focus groups, video interviews, online and paper based surveys, to name a few. From experience each method varies greatly in terms of the associated cost and time, so whilst Local Authorities might not think some of the options we use are realistic for them, there will be some techniques that actually generate good levels of response without throwing a large amount of money at it or taking up too much time.
During the session we want to share as much of our experiences as possible, but we want to do so in the context of the confines that our delegates work within.
The session will kick off with an introduction on how the National Assembly for Wales scrutinises the work of the Welsh Government (yes, there is a difference!), highlighting the practicalities and considerations in trying to encourage participation in scrutiny, and the types of barriers faced internally and externally. Delegates will then be split into groups for a workshop activity where participants will discuss examples of what they currently do to encourage participation in scrutiny, the barriers they have or may face in doing so, and what opportunities exist. Each group will be asked to feedback one good example of each before closing with a question and answer session directed at Virginia, Kevin or the Members present.
We hope that delegates will leave our session having shared best practice with counterparts, learnt new ways of encouraging participation in scrutiny, and had some of the concerns of doing so answered at the same time, taking away practical examples that they can use in their role as scrutinisers at a local level.