The Health Policy Officers Network collaborated with the Scottish Parliament’s Participation and Communities Team to hold a knowledge exchange event in the parliament.
We heard from Ewan about the Participation and Communities Team’s (PACT) role in bringing communities to parliament and trying to ensure committees hear from those often missing from policy making conversations. He led a roundtable discussion about PACT’s communication methods and sought views from the policy officers about how they source engagement opportunities and keep up with whats going on in parliament. We heard from other members of PACT about their own roles in things like helping facilitate citizen’s assemblies and working with the Parliament Communication Office. There was recognition by the network that while parliament’s communications meet the needs of policy officers, it can be harder for the people we support to engage with parliament. There was also a strong recognition of the need to engage with “seldom listened to voices” and a move away from terminology like “hard to reach”.
We were then delighted to hear from assistant clerk to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, Susan, about influencing committee work programmes. Susan explained that every committee is different and unfortunately the process for work programmes can change ever year! However, she did say the committee was always considering its plans and priorities change as parliaments change. She noted the Programme for Government was always a key source of information in terms of the legislative priorities the committee may focus on. Over the summer committees usually hold a planning day where MSPs can make pitches along with input from clerks and SPICe. The policy officers had an in depth conversation with Susan about influencing legislation, including the challenges of subordinate legislation.
Kimberley, Policy and Engagement Lead at VHS, then led a roundtable discussion with the policy officers about the Scottish Government’s upcoming human rights incorporation bill, currently being consulted on. Organisations shared their knowledge and use of human rights in their role. We heard that accountability was the cornerstone of human rights and discussed the different rights which interlink with the right to health, noting that choice was key. There was a strong feeling that we need to be engaging with the children’s organisations who contributed to the development of the UNCRC legislation, to learn about the challenges of working close to reserved legislation and how to communicate complex terminology.
This was a wonderful opportunity for 15 of our network to meet PACT colleagues in person for the first time in years. Our policy officers were so grateful for the opportunity from Ewan at PACT and Susan from the committee to collaborate and share knowledge. We hope this has formed lasting partnerships to help bring the communities we support to the heart of parliament.
For more information about the meeting or network please contact our Policy and Engagement Lead, Kimberley Somerside.