Having a voice on issues that affect local communities (& recipients of service)

Dear All, I really enjoyed the meeting on the 11th of June 2014 and have complied a quick resource for members of the London Network to build upon the questions raised of:

"How do we encourage psychologists/practitioners to be more active on explicitly political issues that affect their service users/communities?"


"How do we work towards a platform where critically minded psychologists can have a more public voice in austerity/wellbeing debates?"


Local Government as defence

Winifred Holtby wrote in 1935:

"Local government (is) in essence the first line of defence thrown up by the community against our common enemies - poverty, sickness, ignorance, isolation, mental derangement and social maladjustment"

Although the language is of its time the essence remains. If we accept this as a truth it would follow that the local councils are amongst the ways that psychologists/practitioners can be more active on explicitly political issues that affect their service users and their local communities.

An example of this are the councils that have provided a defence against government policy relating to the austerity agenda. In a recent report by Brent Council to the council members they attributed the welfare reforms (& their implementation of bedroom tax & related evictions) as key contributory factors to a 1/3 increase in homelessness in the borough. Whereas councils like Brighton and Bristol adopted a 'no eviction' policy as a direct response to the concerns of their electorate.

Councils as per good practice are obliged to run consultations on each new policy they introduce. The responses of the consultations are then fed into the reports which form the policy. Often, these consultations are not overtly advertised. This is considered beneficial for the majority party in council as they can push through their agenda without much thought. Within local councils that are effectively a one party state, opposition members (if there are any) do not have the resources to provide scrutiny to proposals as they are effectively working a part time job. The research that underpins these policies and are presented in consultations is often poor with samples so small they become unrepresentative. Correlations and causation are often confused and then 'consultations' are completed with the desired limited response that does not draw attention to basic research method related issues.

Part of the incrementalist approach to service change advocated by James Quinn (1986) is about broadening political support for new ways of working and legitimising new viewpoints.Consultations provide the opportunity to do this.

A couple of example consultations where input from psychologists/practitioners may be beneficial are:

  • Barnet: Adult Social Care - Direct Payments Recipients' Consultation. It specifically affects the health and wellbeing of people with a disability and older adults. Two groups of vulnerable people that are profession often engages with the most, but we have an awareness that the nature of their difficulties impacts on their ability for self-advocacy. Yet through clinical work it may be argued that  http://engage.barnet.gov.uk/adult-social-services/direct-payments-r...
  • Lambeth:Sexual Health Policy. The report has identified that this will most affect men that have sex with men, young people and the Black African community. This is something that will have a direct impact upon the health & wellbeing on these groups of people as well as others. Issues surrounding sex & relationships, as well as the impact of ill-health or life events surrounding pregnancy are often areas that may be seen within formulation of people accessing service. It would therefore be argued that psychologists/practitioners are well placed to provide some input on this particular consultation.


The Care Quality Commission also runs consultations:

The current one is:

  • Consultation on integrated multi-agency inspections of children's services. Where they ask for people with child protection skills and experience to help shape their plans for inspections. They also wish to use the feedback to shape future plans to ensure the best outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/consultation-integrated-multi-agency-...

At the end of this post I have complied a list of direct links to the pages where consultations are posted by each local council within London.

Key legislation to base any arguments around include:

  • The Human Rights Act (1998)

No public authority can act in any way that is incompatible with this act.

Which makes it quite a powerful tool for systems change. The British Institute of Human Rights produces a range of resources aimed to support recipients of service, vulnerable groups (such as carers or people with learning disabilities) to understand their rights and empower the to claim them when faced with oppressive policy and practices.

The range of resources & guides can be found here: http://www.bihr.org.uk/resources/guides

  • Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012

This is where under thanks to EU regulations public authorities have a duty to consider how services being procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of its area and how the council can secure that improvement.

Encouraging Councillors to work for you.

Councillors are fickle creatures undertaking a thankless task that only respond to issues that are brought up to them. They are often from a range of profession and none (e.g. career politicians) so can have a limited understanding of how policy may impact upon others. Generally topics for casework that Councillor's receive are based around issues of pavements, potholes and litter so they might welcome the change.

Your local councillors can be found and written to quite quickly via http://www.writetothem.com

Once you have an awareness of who they are, it might be beneficial to search for which of your local members has responsibility for key areas such as health and wellbeing or the environment. The majority of local councillors use www.twitter.com to keep informed with political issues but also provide information on what they are doing to the local community. They are often registered with a username 'cllr' something and welcome contact around issues of concern via the medium.

If its an issue you wish to take further up the food chain to your local MP, you might like to check their record on the particular issue via http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and use what they have previously said and how they have previously voted to bolster your case when writing to them via www.writetothem.com. As there is an election coming up in the next year they may be particularly willing to look into things. If they are not (or even if they are) look up who your local Party Parliamentary Candidates (of each denomination) and ask them to look into the issue for you.

Of salience: as with the number of people that respond to consultations, the number of people that contact their elected representatives is low. This means that biases we are aware of through psychological research are resplendent. It means that by virtue of contacting your representative, your voice is heard greater than it would be via your single vote.

Wiki-Leaking via Freedom of Information Requests

As part of your role you may be in a position where you are aware of policy, procedure or facts about your organisation that have a direct impact on the wellbeing of people that use your service or the wider community (that are not relevant to internal whistleblowing policy etc). Yet due to the nature of your role or position may feel unable to do anything with this knowledge. This might then become the time to embrace methods of resistance / direct action.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Public Authorities have a duty to release any information that they have documented for the benefit of the public on request as we pay for their service and it enables scrutiny. The website https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/ provides a quick and easy way to get the information you know out into the public domain. Public authorities are not allowed to turn down requests from pseudonyms and you are not obligated to provide personal details such as an address or telephone number. You can also pick up a disposable email address, no registration required from http://mailinator.com/ for this very purpose. If the information that you are aware of is not easily accessible, you may think of a way of utilising the local audit team to gather this information into a format which can then subsequently be requested via the FOI Act.

This information can then be utilised in correspondence with your local councillors and highlighted as important to your friendly local journalists or political activists / bloggers.

Positioning for future consultations

A lot of the political issues that affect health and wellbeing and impact upon communities will come up at different times in different councils. If members provide a response to issues i would humbly query if they could be placed on this site so that other members can utilise the information to enable quick response to consultations in other areas! Possibly in a similar fashion to what is sent out by Amnesty International to people on their email list or via their activism centre which has a list of themes & responses that people may like to use with relation to particular appeals or issues. 


Council Consultation Pages

Barking & Dagenham












City of London












Hammersmith & Fulham














Kensington and Chelsea


Kingston upon Thames












Richmond upon Thames






Tower Hamlets


Waltham Forest






Views: 111

Replies to This Discussion

Via Jonathan Beebee (@JonathanBeebee) and the Positive Behaviour Support Network

You may have seen this before, but there is currently a consultation open on the new Care Act which will be in place from April 2015. Consultation closes August 15th. This is replacing a lot of existing laws around health and social care. It is a lot to take in, but could have a huge impact on support for people with learning disabilities. Is anyone planning to respond individually or collectively?


Two consultations that would benefit from Community Psychology Input

  1. Oxfordshire have a consultation on Learning Disability Services:

https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/bigplanLD/consu... Big Plan - Oxfordshire's Learning Disability Strategy 2015 - 2018 - draft Ends: 09 Feb 2015 Oxfordshire County Council is asking you about the draft Big Plan: Oxfordshire's Learning Disability Strategy 2015-18. The plan sets out how services for adults with learning disabilities will be provided in Oxfordshire. You can tell us what you think about the draft Big Plan from 10 November 2014 until 9 February 2015

2. Brent have a Borough Plan Consultation which could do with a dose of Psychologists against Austerity!

We want your views and ideas about how we can make Brent better. Over the past six years we have all faced a squeeze on our incomes – with increasing demands and costs. Public services are no exception – cuts are hitting local authorities, local health services and community organisations.

Despite the difficult financial position, we have big ambitions for Brent – we want to make sure that all residents have the opportunity to use their full potential, to enjoy the best that Brent has to offer and to contribute actively to our community. So we want to work with you to find the best way of building for the future and providing great services when we have less money and greater demands. We want to know what you think is most important for Brent, bearing in mind that prioritising means we will have to do less in some areas – or stop doing some things altogether. We are also looking for your ideas on how we can deliver services more innovatively, working with others to protect services – this includes working with you.


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