Writing an influence and participation policy
An influence and participation policy sets out a vision for how service users and people with mental health problems can shape and influence a service.
It makes sure that everyone, including staff, trustees, service users and other beneficiaries, are all on the same page and are working towards a shared vision.
It means that as well as having direction, there's a plan of how the shared vision will be achieved, and guidance around what it'll look like in practice. This means that it's much more likely to be implemented consistently.
Your policy can become a useful document for everyone to refer to, with all relevant information in one place.
Who should be involved with creating an influence and participation policy?
It's vital that everyone who's affected by the policy has some input when writing it. This should include staff, service users from across the organisation, senior managers and the board of trustees.
It should also involve communities that aren't currently represented in services. It's also important to make sure those invited come from the widest possible range of backgrounds and communities.
You should have gender parity and representation of LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, people from BAME communities, and people who experience social disadvantage.
What should be included in your influence and participation policy?
Some sections you may want to include when writing an I&P policy:
- Background to the policy
- Your organisation’s approach and vision
- Definitions of terms you are using
- Why influence and participation is important to the organisation - this could include any commitment to influence and participation, benefits to the organisation, and benefits to service users
- How you'll value people, including payments and expenses. Your policy should outline who you pay (if anyone), how much you pay, what you pay them for, and how people are paid. You should include payment arrangements for young people if relevant.
- Payment isn't the only way to demonstrate to people how valuable their input and commitment are. If there's no budget to pay people, your policy should outline the other incentives or rewards you'll offer, like a reference, training, or further opportunities to work with the organisation.
- Who'll take part in influencing your organisation. This should include a wide range of people from across the organisation who use different parts of the service. It's very important that we consult with people who have experience across the whole spectrum of mental health issues. You could also include people from the community who may not currently access the service.
- Diversity and difference. It's essential you include people who come from different backgrounds, have different identities, have different experiences of health and social care, and who may have encountered different degrees of social exclusion, stigma and discrimination.
- How you will implement the policy. It's worth considering potential costs and whether there are low-cost ways of implementing influence and participation. For example, by advising procedural adjustments which don’t need high spend but will remove barriers.
- Communicating your opportunities. How will you communicate about your opportunities? What needs to be considered? Think about your different audiences and how you promote opportunities in your organisation.
- Support. It's important that people are supported to take part in opportunities and that this support is included in the policy. This might include training, mentoring, drop-in sessions and having information in different formats.
- Monitoring. How will you monitor what opportunities are happening across the organisation? Who's responsible for overseeing and monitoring the policy implementation?
- Any resources that inform or support your work. These resources may be internal to your organisation or external resources that have informed decisions or are useful for people to refer to. Make sure you include any resources that focus on particular groups.
- Other policies from your organisation. For example, an equality and diversity policy, or safeguarding policy. Make sure anything you say is consistent across policies and will be updated in other policy documents if things have changed.
- A summary section for people to read about influence and participation in a more general context.
Promoting, reviewing and implementing your policy
Once you've created or reviewed your policy, make sure it's available to staff, service users, trustees, and other stakeholders. Think about how you will make it available and accessible to people. You could:
- Make the summary available in different places and formats, like on the website, and on a wall in your building
- Include a link to the policy in email signatures or in newsletters
- Host sessions to discuss the new policy
It's a good idea to outline how frequently you'll review the policy. Many organisations review it every 2 years as things can change quickly.
Think about how you'll implement your policy across your organisation. This will depend on what your policy sets out to achieve.
Continue to consult with anyone who contributed to the policy during this process.