It’s vitally important that people with lived experience continue to advise, shape and offer guidance in all of our work, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a strong possibility that the pandemic will continue to influence our ways of working, or that other factors will arise that impact the way that people can come together.
The following suggestions of things to consider will help you to think through what you need to do when moving from situations where people can meet face to face, in groups, to situations where remote working becomes necessary.
- What projects are you currently running that involve people with lived experience meeting face to face and how might you continue these online? This could include steering/advisory/focus groups, research, consultancy and one off projects.
- Have you considered people’s knowledge of and access to the right resources, technology and digital platforms to stay connected? Remember that not everybody has access to mobile phones, Wi-Fi and other equipment so asking people about their preferred ways of communicating and working is essential.
- Could you use some of your team’s budget to pay for digital platforms to enable people to stay involved and connected? This could be a good use of funds as an alternative to travel and venue budgets that are not being used.
- How can you continue to ensure that equality and diversity is addressed within your Influence and Participation activity? One of the things that has become apparent is that online activities and other types of remote working have advantages as well as disadvantages; for example, they might offer greater flexibility in terms of enabling a greater diversity of people to become involved. These may include (but is not an exhaustive list):
- people who experience difficulties with travelling
- those who may find in-person meetings difficult due to sensory difficulties
- carers who cannot spend potentially long periods of travel time away from home
- socially disadvantaged people or those for whom payment for travel, even if reimbursed, is difficult
- It’s also important to hold on to these advantages of remote working that we’ve become aware of and to think about whether it might be more appropriate to continue working online, even when it becomes possible to meet in person again.
Communicating with participants
If you need to pause any of your Influence and Participation work, how will you keep in touch with people who have been involved to date? It’s essential that relationships are maintained in some way to sustain engagement for when work restarts, provide clear information and be mindful of the potentially stressful context.
In your communications consider:
- explaining to participants why decisions have been made
- inviting participants to input in decision making where possible
- letting people know how frequently you will be in contact if work is paused
- changing circumstances may affect people’s capacity to stay involved with the project.
Questions to ask participants include:
- What is the best way to communicate with you - email/phone/other?
- What support do you need to continue with this work? You could offer examples of potential ways you could provide this.
- How do you want to be involved in this work going forward? You could offer examples of ways that people could stay involved.
On remote platforms, it is important to follow relevant policies, including GDPR Compliance and Safeguarding. If your ways of working are changing and you are working with sensitive data (this includes information relating to certain diversity characteristics, such as a person’s ethnicity, religion or belief, sexuality or disability/health condition), you may have some questions or concerns that you want to discuss with the Data Manager in your organisation.
Payments to people with lived experience
Payments for online Influence and Participation activities should be made at the same rate as for activities that involve face to face meetings. Our influence and participation policy outlines our organisations rates.