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Writing a policy

Having an I&P policy sets out a vision for how service users and people with lived experience of mental health problems will shape and influence the service. It ensures that everyone including staff, trustees, service users and other beneficiaries are all on the same page and are invested in working towards that shared vision.  It means that as well as having direction, there is a plan of how this will be achieved and some guidance around what this will look like in practice. This means that it is much more likely to be implemented consistently and will be a useful document for everyone to refer to, with all relevant information in one place.

Who should be involved?

It is vital that everyone who is 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 as well as ideally communities that are not currently represented in services. It's also important to ensure that those invited to contribute come from the widest possible range of backgrounds and communities (e.g. gender parity and representation of LGBT+ and disabled people, people from BAME communities as well as those who experience social disadvantage).

What could be included in your Influence & Participation Policy?

Some sections that you may want to include when writing an I&P policy:

  • Background
  • Your organisation’s approach and vision
  • Any definitions of terms you are using
  • Why is I&P important to the organisation - this could include any commitment to I&P, benefits to the organisation, and benefits to service users
  • Valuing people including payments and expenses. Your policy should include payment information outlining who you pay (if anyone), how much you pay, for what, and how people are paid, should be included in this policy. Also payment arrangements for young people if relevant. Payment is not the only way to demonstrate to people how valuable their input and commitment are. If there's no budget to pay people you could offer other incentives or rewards, such as a reference, training, or further opportunities to work with you or your organisation.
  • Who will 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 is 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- equally, it is essential that you include people who come from different backgrounds/have different identities and have different experiences of health and social care, and who may have encountered different degrees of social exclusion, stigma and discrimination.
  • How you will do this? It is worth considering potential costs and whether there are low-cost ways of implementing, e.g. greater inclusion, such as by advising procedural adjustments which don’t require high spend but will remove barriers
  • Communicating your opportunities- how will you communicate about I&P opportunities? What needs to be considered? Think about your different audiences and how you promote opportunities in your organisation.
  • Support- it is important that people are supported to take part in I&P 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 I&P is happening across the organisation?
  • Who is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the policy implementation?
  • Resources to support your work. Include any other 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. It is also worth ensuring that resources focused on particular groups, which go into greater detail than the I&P policy itself can, are shared (e.g. Mind’s Stand Bi Me guide, focused on bi peoples’ experiences of mental health services, would be one example).
  • Other policies from your organisation. Your policy may link to other policies and statements in your organisation such as Equality & Diversity, Safeguarding etc. It can be useful to remind people of the need to consult these at relevant parts of the document. Make sure that anything you say is consistent across policies / will be updated in other policy documents where relevant if things have changed.
  • A summary section so that people who want to can read about it in a more general context.

 

Promoting your Influence & Participation Policy

Once you have created or reviewed your I&P policy it is important to ensure that this is available to staff, service users, trustees, and other stake holders. Think about how you will make it available and accessible to people. Some ideas you could consider include:

  • Having the summary available in different places and formats such as on the website and maybe displayed on a wall in your building (if appropriate)
  • Including the link to the policy in email signatures or in newsletters
  • Having drop in sessions to discuss the new policy

Reviewing your I&P policy

It is a good idea to set out how frequently the policy will be reviewed. Many organisations review it every two years as things can change rapidly in this area of work.

Implementing your I&P Policy

Once your I&P policy is written it is important to think about how this will be implemented across your organisation. How this happens will depend on what it is your policy sets out to achieve in the vision.  It is important however to continue to consult with the people who contributed to creating the policy during the process.

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