Over the past five years on this blog we have observed and recorded some of the achievements of one of the portfolio projects in particular: YAPS (Young Adult Peer Support project) run by Ponthafren Association (read The YAPS project at Ponthafren Association, Young Adult Peer Support project @ PAVO AGM and YAPS Sharing the Voice).
Carl summed up some of the achievements of the OPCV project as a whole at the event:
“About 7 years ago the Big Lottery Fund in Wales had an idea. It wanted to try to support people in getting their voice heard and in influencing decisions that affected them. They then invited County Voluntary Councils such as Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations to put in a bid (it was a competitive process - not every area of Wales was successful), in relation to getting voices heard to make a difference, but also in a way that reflected the local context and local environment.
To be frank, I was surprised we were awarded the money. That’s not because I thought that what we set out to do wasn’t important, but our approach here in Powys has been very unique in that if you were to look at the projects elsewhere in Wales they have a very, very distinct focus. One was focussing exclusively on mental health. Another on learning disabilities and so on. We took a risk I think, in that at the time, together with the council and health board and other partners, we were developing the One Powys Plan. And the OPP was a diverse plan wanting to do lots of things. So we brought together a portfolio of projects to enable voices to have an influence on different aspects of the OPP. So as you will see around the room we have got people supporting carers, people that were focussing on neurological conditions, others that focussed on older people, others that focussed on the environment and sustainability, on younger people, on children and so on.
So what has this project actually done? Well, in one way it’s very simple. We wanted to try to support people in getting their views, observations, comments and concerns heard by Welsh Government, by the commissioners of services, by our statutory partners in the council and health board, by emergency services such as the police and many others. And I’m pleased to say that that was done and it was done well. Nothing is perfect and it would be invidious of me to stand here and pretend that things are ever perfect. But this project has made a difference. And that is crucial.
|Barbara Perkins, OPCV Officer and Martin Nosworthy, Chair of the PAVO Board|
You, and the people you represent, not only got your voices heard but your voices were listened to and they made a difference. That is crucial. Also the way in which young carers were brought into contact with social workers. The way in which those young carers were then involved in the training of social workers. So that workforce development, as well as operational delivery, was part of how the voice was mobilised to make things different. The commissioners for older people’s and children’s services have been involved in discussion and dialogue around transport, around social isolation, loneliness, and certainly if you look at some of the initiatives that have been taking place over the last years, and that will continue under the new area plan and wellbeing plans, then again things are different.
We’ve seen lots of other things develop. Again partly influenced by this project, be it around recycling and the involvement of communities and volunteers in recycling. So called upcycling. So, you take what might one time have been discarded and you give it fresh life for new use. We have repair cafes that have emerged over Powys over the last years. Again partly as a result of this project.
|Julia Gorman and Robin Green ran the YAPS Project at Ponthafren Association|
Further examples include dementia cafes, and dementia support groups. Children have led campaigns about children’s rights. Young adults have provided services to local employers especially around training and workforce development. We’ve also seen in this project, and because of it, impact around helping people with shopping and making sure that particularly older people who find it difficult, if not impossible, to get out of the house, get affordable goods delivered to them. And we’ve been able to link that with some support around cooking and healthy eating and again that wouldn’t have happened, certainly not in the same way, had it not been for what this project was doing.
My last example is around digital accessibility. We all know that transport is a perennial intractable problem here in Powys. But crucially we are very aware that people need to be plugged in digitally in the 21st century in order to be able to access health, social and commercial services at all times. And part of what this project has done is to help people in terms of upskilling and training and information when it comes to technology and internet services. Again another example of an accessibility barrier that has been overcome.
So, I’ve just tried to focus on literally ten or so examples of where what we’re doing today is not just saying well done and let’s go home, but well done and you’ve made a difference. Things are not the same in Powys today as they were five years ago because of what you and colleagues have done. And that’s a testimony not just to the project but to the value of participation, the effectiveness of public engagement, and to use a bit of more modern jargon, the importance of so-called co-production.
But it doesn’t stop there. We will then regularly collate and analyse that information, and make sure that it continues to influence decisions through our links with partners and strategic partnerships. So it’s not the end today. The end of the project, but things will still continue.”