27 recommendations were agreed by members of the Citizens' Assembly for Northern Ireland, covering a number of themes including person-centred care, care provision and systems and structures for the funding and delivery of care. These recommendations include better support for carers, an end to compulsory zero hour contracts for care workers and support for older people to be better integrated into society.
The members of the Citizens’ Assembly are ordinary people living in Northern Ireland who were selected to be broadly representative of the population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, regional spread, and socio-economic status – otherwise known as a ‘mini-public’. The Citizens’ Assembly aims to give decision-makers the information and social-license to make difficult decisions on the future of social care for older people.
With the support of an academic team and facilitators, the Citizens’ Assembly members teased out recommendations for decision-makers to create a social care system that meets both current and future needs.
Citizens’ Assembly members worked through a series of exercises, involving small group discussions, as well as some voting and ranking of options. At each stage of this deliberative process, the arguments and conclusions were recorded to enable decision-makers to fully understand the rationales behind the recommendations. These recommendations came after two weekends of learning, deliberation and decision-making designed to ensure participants received the evidence they required to make informed recommendations.
A number of the recommendations focus on better support for carers, including:
“To make caring a more attractive profession by improving working conditions: including the identification of clear career pathways, providing emotional support for staff, paying for travel time and mileage and expenses in addition to salary and ending the use of compulsory zero-hour contracts”.
Other recommendations include the need to better integrate older people within society:
“To adopt policy and provision which promotes the integration of older people with the wider community. This should include a range of housing options (including intergenerational sharing), access to transport and community spaces where older people and others can interact”.
An official report from the Citizens’ Assembly will be published in January 2019.
Tim Hughes from Involve said:
“The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland will be taken to the Department of Health and we are delighted that the Department has been so welcoming of this process. The recommendations from a representative group of citizens deserve to be taken seriously.
“This model of deliberative democracy could, in the future, be used to resolve other complex and contested issues and help point the way to a more productive democratic system when the NI Assembly is back up and running”.