Following community meetings held in the wake of the death of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the MP for Ipswich and Ipswich Borough Council committed to improved engagement with people living in Ipswich. It was proposed that this would be via the creation of “reference groups” for community which would be representative of the ethnic diversity of residents. It was also hoped that the Groups would have an appropriate gender and age balance.
The Reference Groups will be the “go to” group for the public bodies working in the area to better understand the issues experienced by those living in the area and will also have access to the public bodies enabling residents to raise issues via the group that they wish to discuss and find solutions to. The group will be a conduit between the public sector and the community enabling a two way dialogue on the issues that affect residents.
The Group’s initial terms of reference are proposed to be:
- To provide a forum for open discussion on matters affecting the community
- To identify community issues and priorities and help to raise the profile of these priorities with the public bodies
- To jointly shape services and other decisions as appropriate for the local area
- To ensure seldom heard voices are equally sought and heard
- To work in partnership with the public bodies to ensure effective communication channels remain open
- To help the public bodies to understand the needs of the diverse communities that make up the area and to aid cohesion within the community
- To participate in local spending decisions when funds are available and to participate in the commissioning and design of services
- To give a community perspective on prospective actions or decisions made by public bodies and how they will affect the community
Essentially the group is there to be involved, engaged, consulted and informed; to co-create, co-design and co-commission services within budgetary restraints that will best meet the needs of residents. To be successful, the Group needs the public sector agencies to commit to listening, engaging and respecting the Group and to working with it on issues affecting the area. Each agency will be asked to openly make this commitment when the Group is formed.
The commitment will be to
- Listen and respond
- Promote initiatives, share joint achievements, and engage wider community views and ideas.
- Support training and development of group members.
- Provide facilities for the group to meet
- Provide administrative support (IBC only)
- Measure improvement resulting from this way of working
Getting the membership of the Group right is key to its success. The proposed principles of membership are:
- That the group is representative of people living in the area in terms of ethnicity, age and gender. It should not be dominated by one group.
- That the group should be made up of people who do not already have a loud voice or other opportunities to make themselves heard. This means for example that people who are employed by one of the public agencies involved will not be able to sit on the group
- That group members should be able to seek the views of the people they represent
- That group members will respect each other and support each other to ensure that all voices and views are heard
- That group members attend and participate in meetings and engage via other means (such as digital channels) between meetings when needed
- That group members are not expected to agree with the public bodies about all decisions they are consulted on but will be able to explain how they were consulted
The Groups will have a 50:50 gender balance and that at least 2 places will be taken by young people (i.e. under the age of 20)
The groups’ incubation will be supported by Ipswich Borough Council in terms of organising meetings, taking notes, providing refreshments etc and ISCRE will support the group to develop by brokering the support they need from the public sector bodies.
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