4th February 2016, Dewars Centre, Glover Street, Perth.
Singing, dancing and even a few tears - not something you might expect from a public decision making process but it was clear from the outset that the ‘Carers Voice, Carers Choice’ event in Perth was going to be something very different. We arrived to a busy hall, packed full with carers ready to vote on how £20k of funding would be spent. Our host for the day, David Stokoe (Service Manager, Cultural and Community Services, Perth and Kinross Council) introduced the event, explaining how unpaid carers would be able to decide how the funding would be spent on projects in their local community that would directly benefit them. We were told that there would be 19 projects presenting, and each had only three minutes to convince the audience to vote for them. The pressure was on.
The energy in the room was palpable as each project took to the stage to make their case for funding. A lot of thought and effort had clearly gone into each projects presentation. PKAVS Day Care Services took to the stage in beach hats singing to bid for funding for a trip to Blackpool for up to 60 of their adult carers, while Bridging the Gap Mens Walking Group and PKAVS Young Adult Carers Service both performed short plays. Some groups brought props to illustrate their project, whilst others spoke of their personal experiences of being a carer. Each presentation was informative and entertaining- and often moving- with each project managing to make an impact in just three minutes.
When all the presentations were finished, it was time to break while the carers made their decisions and voted for the projects they wanted to see funded. We spoke to Paul Henderson, of the Joint Strategy for Adult Carers, about his thoughts on the event. “We wanted to empower carers and give them choice and control over how money that will affect them is spent”, he said.
“Through this event we hope that carers will feel listened to and taken seriously. They’re the ones with the skills and expertise and know what will help them and other carers.”
This sentiment was echoed throughout the day, with everyone emphasising the importance of allowing carers to decide how funding that will affect them should be spent. One participant said it was good to see “decisions being taken by the community, not ‘handed down”.
After the break, it was time to announce which projects had been awarded funding. 58 carers voted with approximately 100 people attending throughout the day, and 15 of the 19 projects who presented were awarded funding after voting. The projects which were awarded funding were:
- SHIP & SPLASH- Saturday Respite
- PKAVS - Day Care Services (Respite for Older Carers)
- Live Active Leisure - No Limits Cycling
- New Rannoch Carers
- P&K Unpaid Carers Forum
- Tea @ Two
- PKAVS - Strathmore Monthly Therapy
- PKAVS - YAC Residential
- Carse Community Café
- PKAVS/MECOPP Bridging the Gap - Day Trips for Gypsy Traveller Carers
- PKAVS Bridging the Gap - Men's Walking Group
- The Care & Wellbeing Co-operative - Sitter Service Highland Perthshire
- Support in Mind - Daytime Support Group in Perth
- Perth Carers Theatrics
- Vision PK - DVD for Carers
The event was a great success, with Alan Budge of PB Partners UK describing it as “A great example of taking PB into a new area and seeing it succeed brilliantly”. We spoke to participants who said that the event was a great way to let people know about the work you’re doing, as well as finding out about what else is going on in your area. One carer from PKAVS Young Adult Carers Service said that taking part in the event gave them the chance to work as a team to come up with a project to present and they really enjoyed the event overall. Several participants said they felt participatory budgeting was a great way to make funding decisions more transparent and hoped that PB could be rolled out across other areas of funding. Participants were engaged and excited about the event, with carers asking questions after each presentation and sharing information about their projects throughout the day.
According to a survey taken by 61 people who attended on the day:
- 93% felt it was good for carers
- 97% stated they liked the presentations
- 95% stated the day was well organised
- 90% thought the event was held in a good location
- 95% stated they would do this again
Judging by this feedback, ‘Carers Voice, Carers Choice’ was a great success. Moreover, this level of energy and enthusiasm may not be found in all decision making processes, but it would appear to be a trend when it comes to participatory budgeting.