A look back on the first Experts by Experience Panel of the Poverty and Inequality Commission
Guest blog written by Munwar Hussain, Senior Participation Officer, Poverty and Inequality Commission.
The statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission was established from 1 July 2019. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 sets out functions for the Commission in relation to Scotland’s child poverty targets. This includes providing advice to Ministers on their Child Poverty Delivery Plans and commenting on annual progress towards targets. The Commission also has a remit to provide wider advice, scrutiny and advocacy on any other matter relating to poverty and inequality.
In early 2022 we talked about the launch of our Experts by Experience Panel and embedding lived experience in the work of the Poverty and Inequality Commission and our plans for the future of the Panel in a previous guest blog – Embedding participation in the work of the Poverty and Inequality Commission.
The Commission established an Experts by Experience Panel in August 2021 and were guided by recommendations from members of the Poverty Alliance’s Community Activists’ Advisory Group. This work was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Commission has committed to working towards sharing power and co-producing its advice, scrutiny and advocacy with the Panel.
This blog reports on feedback we’ve gathered from Panel members and some of what we’ve learned from it now that our first Experts by Experience Panel has concluded. We’ve also published information about some of the work the Panel have been involved with on the Poverty and Inequality Commission website.
Throughout the two years we worked with our first Experts by Experience Panel, we’ve gathered feedback from participants by surveys and conversations with them. We have also worked with Anna Baillie, a PhD researcher at Glasgow University who has engaged Panel members in research she has been doing in the use of participation in socio-economic decision-making.
Anna’s work has included interviewing Panel members, observing Panel meetings and leading a co-production workshop. Although Anna’s work is still in progress, we have used her emerging findings along with feedback surveys we have conducted with the Panel.
From these findings we have noted some key themes demonstrating what Panel members liked, and what they would change about their participation on the Panel.
What did Panel members like about the Panel?
Interaction with each other and Commissioners
Panel members stated that they liked learning from each other, including learning about different people’s experience of poverty and the opportunity to challenge any preconceived ideas. They also liked the opportunity to meet with and work with Commissioners, with some noting being treated as equals by them.
Platform to engage with Scottish Government officials
Panel members appreciated the opportunity to engage Scottish Government officials about the realities of living in poverty and the challenges they face, as well as the feeling this gave of making a difference.
Culture of the Panel and the support that was provided
As well as having regular meetings, Panel members noted the safety they felt of not being judged, and the respect and honesty that was shown at Panel meetings. They also appreciated briefings and information that was provided to them in advance, and the efforts made to ensure accessibility and inclusion within the Panel. Support mentioned included different formats, bespoke technical support/digital devices and an open-door policy in terms of communication between the Commission secretariat and Panel members.
“Thank you for not being judgemental and allowing us to have a voice” – Panel Member
Smaller working groups
Having smaller working groups were seen as productive. This included smaller group discussion during Panel meetings (such as in break out rooms), which was viewed as helpful to enable quieter voices to contribute.
“Thank you for allowing me to grow as a person, I was too shy to talk at the start, and now I feel I could do public speaking (online of course!)” – Panel Member
What would Panel members change?
More opportunities to interact with Commissioners
Panel members said they would like more opportunities to work with the Commissioners of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, including more direct contact with and visibility from the Commission members.
More feedback from Scottish Government
Panel members said they would like clearer response from Scottish Government to Panel contributions. Some felt there should be a more formal feedback loop as to how the Scottish Government responded to Panel suggestions. The journey from Panel contributions to a final Scottish Government policy decision or action appeared difficult/opaque to Panel members. Suggestions to improve this included a ‘You said, We did’ type of response mechanism.
Adjustments to Panel meetings
Some adjustments to Panel meetings were suggested, including:
- changing meeting schedules and timings to be more suitable for some Panel members to attend
- more facilitation to ensure that everyone is heard and conversations are not dominated by the most vocal
- more in-person/hybrid meetings
- engagement with other groups
- more working groups.
More clarity on Panel priority and focus
There was a focus at the start of the Panel on child poverty because of the Commission’s specific role in advising Scottish Government on child poverty. Some Panel members felt there was a need to have focused activity on specific priorities from the outset with a wider scope of activity beyond child poverty. This linked to feelings of not being able to contribute at some Panel meetings by some members, due to them not having direct experience of the policy problem being discussed (for example, Panel members without caring responsibilities sometimes felt they could not contribute so much to discussions on child poverty). However, from others it was also noted that child poverty was the area where the Panel were most likely to have institutional ‘buy in’ and where they could potentially make an impact.
“Thank you for the respect of others in the group and being able to contribute my lived experience of poverty to shape future policy and government decisions” – Panel Member
Case studies on some topics the Panel has worked on
We have published two case studies that demonstrate the kind of things the Panel has worked on our website. Short summaries of these are below.
Child Poverty Delivery Plan Scrutiny
The Panel worked closely with the Commission on developing its advice to Scottish Government on its Child Poverty Delivery plan 2022-2026 and annual scrutiny of the Plan and progress towards Scotland’s child poverty targets in 2022-23. This enabled the Commission to ensure its recommendations take account of the lived experience of those living in poverty. Panel members have engaged with Commissioners, and have met and questioned Scottish Government officials and Ministers to outline their points of view and recommendations and explain why these are important.
Panel members have also presented to forums including the First Minister’s Anti-Poverty summit earlier this year to urge decision-makers to ‘Be Brave’ to free people living in Scotland from poverty and inequality.
“Being a panel member has been a genuine opportunity to bring about social change in Scotland” – Panel Member
Setting and acting on Panel member priorities
Recognising that Panel members wanted to have a stronger role in shaping the topics they were working on, we asked them what their priorities were. Panel members outlined areas that they wished to focus on, and in particular they highlighted a desire to work on disability assistance, fuel poverty, carer poverty and rural poverty. We identified opportunities for Panel members to feed into ongoing consultations or live policy discussions in relation to these topics.
This included a Panel submission to the Adult Disability Payment Mobility Component review. The consultation analysis report from Scottish Government outlines the key contributions made including referencing the contributions of Panel members. The Panel also engaged with policy leads in Carer Policy and Carer Benefits and made a submission to a request from the Scottish Commission on Social Security on the draft regulations on the new Carer Support Payment. The Panel provided lived experience evidence to the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel to help inform its work on actions that the Scottish Government could take to tackle fuel poverty. The Panel also made a submission about Rural Poverty to the Scottish Affairs committee of the UK Parliament on a call for evidence about the cost of living impact on rural communities.
In delivering this work, as well as participating in regular online and hybrid Panel meetings and engaging Scottish Government officials, Panel members volunteered and met as members of sub working groups and presented to each other about the work carried out at Panel meetings.
“Lived experience voices are invaluable and need to be at the core of any policy making and scrutiny. This panel has enabled that and others can learn so much from it!” – Panel Member
This learning has allowed us to develop an approach for the next Experts by Experience Panel that the Poverty and Inequality Commission aims to commence in 2024. We are committed to continue and expand our work with local groups, organisations and practitioners from across Scotland to collaborate with on recruiting Panel members and ensuring we provide support to them.
For more information on the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s Experts by Experience Panel, you can contact the Commission’s Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org