The participation of adult service users, including older people, in developing social care

Practice example 11: Lewisham Community Empowerment Network

Characteristics of service users involved

Residents of the London Borough of Lewisham. The Community Empowerment Network was set up through central government funding to deprived areas to help them support voluntary and community-sector involvement in local strategic partnerships.

How service user participation within the organisation is ensured

The Network aims to create a partnership between various voluntary community sector groups and residents. The aim is to enable them to come together to network, to share information, to advocate, to campaign.

What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?

The Network seeks to meet its obligations in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) and is sensitive to the needs of the various cultural groups within the service user community, for example in the provision of appropriate food and in the choosing of venues for meetings.

How are service users supported?

The Network aims to act as a bridge between the wider voluntary and community sector and the statutory sector.  By putting people in contact with each other, they can educate each other, creating communities of interest and communities of place. Different ways of sharing information, such as storytelling and music are used as these may help people relate to the issues better.

How are the effects of participation monitored, audited, and evaluated?

The Network is monitored by Lewisham Council using a set of performance indicators developed as part of the Single Community Programme. There have also been events for people to give feedback by means of group discussions. The Network does some monitoring and has also been externally evaluated by Edge Hill College.

What makes organisations succeed in participation?

Communities get fed up being consulted if there’s not a real purpose to it, so it takes a lot of the bitterness out of it if the parameters are explained first. Be explicit about power, about what power they will have in the setup. If there is no trust in the integrity of the consultation process, or if there is no fundamental clarity of purpose then things are undermined.

Contact details

Matthew Scott Lewisham Community Network, Unit 1, Resolution Way, Mechanics Walk, Deptford, London SE8 4NT 020 8692 5274