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

Practice example 13: The Omnibus Partnership

Characteristics of service users involved

Service user controlled organisation of disabled people using, or wishing to use, public transport in Northern Ireland.

How service user participation within the organisation is ensured

The Omnibus Partnership is an organisation of disabled people, including people with communication impairments, mobility impairments, sensory impairments, learning difficulties and mental health service users.

The Omnibus Partnership campaigns to educate transport providers, professionals, and politicians about disabled people’s public transport needs.

What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?

The Omnibus Partnership is a service user controlled organisation. It is stipulated in the constitution of the organisation that disabled people will constitute the majority of its members and eight of the ten members of the Partnership’s Management Committee are disabled.

How are service users supported?

The Omnibus Partnership ensures that members receive and can send information in the format they need. Meetings are arranged in consultation with members and with the needs of those attending in mind, in terms of timing, transport, and the accessibility of the venue and information provided.

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

The first three years of the Omnibus Partnership were assessed by researchers from the local NHS and Social Services Board who did a participatory research study which was very positive. Beyond this, there is informal monitoring of the membership’s concerns.

In terms of the outcomes of participation, the Partnership was originally set up with an immediate aim in mind. It was awarded government and European Union funding which was used to obtain two mainstream public service buses, but accessible to wheelchair users and other disabled people and of a size that meant they could be taken into small streets. The Omnibus Partnership worked with the local transport provider to enable that service to operate.

What makes organisations succeed in participation?

Success comes from being a grassroots organisation. It is very important that the people that are affected by the issues are the people who lead the way with them and that they are assisted in doing so.

The provision of accessible information is very important, as is accessible transport and access to venues and facilities. A readiness to listen to the members needs to be there. There needs to be a willingness to open the mind to the needs of others.

Contact details

David McDonald The Omnibus Partnership, PO Box 148, Bangor, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, BT20 4AN 028 91 470111 028 90 586974 028 91 462199