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The Caithness Partnership
Caithness Rural People's Panel

25 January 07
Caithness Partnership Wants Local People To Have A Say In Planning Local Services During 2007

An innovative new training scheme to improve people’s understanding of the Scottish Standards of Community Engagement is just one of a series of events that will be held across Caithness in 2007 as part of a national programme sponsored by the Carnegie UK Trust to investigate new ways of getting people living in rural areas involved in community planning.

Caithness Partnership, the community planning partnership for the county, has won a £30,000 contract from Carnegie UK Trust to study new methods of involving rural people in community planning. During 2007, the Partnership, working closely with Caithness Voluntary Group, Initiative at the Edge, Caithness Community Transport and Ormlie Community Association, will use the money to carry out a series of events aimed at finding new and effective ways for people living in rural areas to have their say about the planning and delivery of local services.

Carnegie UK Trust has contracted Caithness Partnership under their national Rural Community Development Programme to carry out research that will help inform development of community planning processes nationwide. Caithness Partnership Co-ordinator, Anna MacConnell, said she is delighted that the Partnership’s bid to work for Carnegie was accepted. “I understand that our bid was the only one accepted from Scotland and we are delighted to be carrying the flag in a community planning research programme that covers all of the UK and Ireland. We hope that through this contract we will be able to demonstrate the importance and value of involving people in the design and delivery of services. We are particularly interested in getting people involved who have traditionally been labelled “hard-to-reach” such as young people, or socially isolated people, and finding ways of letting them have their say in the things that affect their day-to-day lives.”

The events taking place throughout 2007 will include community appraisal work within the newly formed Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council area and other initiatives such as the Caithness Peoples Panel, a representative sample of Caithness residents who are willing to make their views known on a variety of different issues that affect the county. In addition, intensive community consultation work has already begun in the South East Caithness Initiative at the Edge area and is being led by Eric Larnach Initiative at the Edge Development Officer, Niall Smith of Caithness Voluntary Group and some of the staff and volunteers at Dunbeath Daycare Centre.

The research will be supported by a series of training sessions aimed at improving the working practices of agency staff who work with members of the community on a daily basis. The first training session took place on Wednesday when Ormlie Community Association held a training session for agency staff and community group members showing them how to improve their interaction with community representatives. The Scottish Standards of Community Engagement are upheld nationally as a benchmark of good practice in working with people in communities and Lorna Simpson of OCA and Sandy Murray, an independent trainer, have designed a course which they feel is going to help the trainees change their working practices so that they get the best out of their interaction with people in the communities.

Although there has been a good uptake of places on the first three courses in January, February and March, Lorna Simpson wants to encourage more people to come forward for training and said: “The National Standards for Community Engagement have been developed with the involvement of over 500 people from communities and agencies throughout Scotland. They are a set of practical tools to help improve the experience of everyone involved in community engagement. Most of what appears in the Standards is common sense but sometimes when people are busy it is not always easy to think of things from the community’s point of view. Using the Standards will help agencies and organisations improve the quality and the results of their work with communities.”

Chairman of Caithness Partnership, George Bruce OBE, said “We took the view that the best people to provide training in community engagement were likely to be the people who have been at the receiving end of engagement in the past; the communities themselves. An association like Ormlie has first hand knowledge of what it’s like to work with agency staff, and the problems sometimes of bringing the community and agencies together in a mutually beneficial way so we are very pleased that OCA was willing to take on the subcontract. An important part of the research will entail going back to the trainees at a later stage to see whether they have found using the Standards has improved the results of their community work.”

The Carnegie UK Trust is one of over 20 foundations worldwide set up by Scots American Andrew Carnegie and is working to promote a more just, democratic and peaceful world. They support independent commissions of inquiry into areas of public concern. The Rural Development Commission is examining ways in which rural communities can be empowered to shape and influence change and work to ensure that rural priorities are fully recognised by the decision makers.

For more information or to take part in the research programme locally contact Caithness Partnership at 50A High Street Wick or phone 0195506483.

Do you give a hoot about Huna, a monkey’s for Murkle
or a fig about Freswick ?

Do you care about Caithness?
During 2007 Caithness Partnership will be working with the Carnegie UK Trust, a national charity, to find new ways for people living in rural areas in the UK to have their say about planning and delivery of local services. We are looking for people who are willing to be members of a Rural People’s Panel – people who are happy to give their opinion on important subjects such as local housing, health, transport, community safety and the economy in Caithness.

We would like to invite you to become members of Caithness Rural People’s Panel, a sample of Caithness people who care enough to make their views known on a variety of different matters in the Caithness Community Plan. The only qualifications needed to become a member is that you are resident in the county, have an email address or are a member of Caithness Rural Transport Network, and you care about the future of Caithness. You will be asked to spend a few minutes each month filling out a questionnaire or answering some questions. As a member of the Panel you will remain anonymous to everyone but the Partnership staff (and we are sworn to secrecy!) but your views will be taken account of in the local community planning process. We may also pass on information to you about other local initiatives during the course of the year.

If you think you might be interested and want to hear more please contact Caithness Partnership Co-ordinator Anna MacConnell anna.macconnell@btinternet.com 01955 606483 for the internet users group and Coreen Campbell, Caithness Rural Transport Manager coreen.campbell@telfordhouse.com 01955 605588 for the community transport users group.