Creating a fairer Britain
It is easy to feel that your voice can't be heard. However, there are many ways that you can have a say and make a positive contribution to your local community.
Many councils are very keen to involve young people in all sorts of ways, from suggestions about activities through to regular consultations about the way in which Council policies affects young people. Lots of areas have Youth Forums, and many send representatives to the UK Youth Parliament.
All areas are represented on the local council by one or more councillors. This is true for all councils, whatever the size. Councillors are elected every four years and are there to speak up for their local community and its needs to the council and council officers. Local councillors hold regular advice sessions - you can go to see them about anything that is of concern to you locally. It helps councillors realise the importance of an issue if several of their constituents speak to them, so if there is something you want changing, it's a good idea to get other local people to see their councillor too.
Councillors will advertise the times of their advice sessions in the council newsletter, if there is one. The library should also be able to help. Some councillors also offer an email service.
You may want to contact the council about a specific complaint about a specific service, for example, if the dustbins weren't emptied, if a street light hasn't been replaced, or if you have noticed vandalism or graffiti. All councils have a complaints process. There should be a leaflet about it at the Town Hall or on the website.
If you are unhappy with a particular council policy, for example, raising the prices of holiday play schemes or introducing a parking policy, the complaints procedure is not appropriate. You need to use other ways of making your views known:
Community groups are often set up by a few enthusiastic people, often to campaign about a specific issue or to highlight a particular service. For example, many areas now have park user groups. These are groups that meet regularly with members of the council, the local community, perhaps the police or other organisations to discuss matters relating to the local park. You don't have to be a member - usually you can just turn up, find out what's going on and join in.
Many councils hold a local Forum to consult people on different issues. They may be based around local areas, or sometimes brought together for a particular issue. It is also common for there to be a local Forum for young people. Councils are very keen to consult young people, and there are many innovative ways in which they are doing so.
The health service has recently introduced ways of patients making their views known, to replace Community Health Councils. The new Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), based in hospitals and GP practices, produce information and advice to patients and help in getting problems sorted out. They also ask for feedback from patients to help the Primary Care Trust develop services. They act independently to assist and support patient and family concerns.
There is also an independent complaints body, called the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service, who will take up a complaint about health care for a patient.
You can get more information about PALS and the Complaints Service from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
The health services have also introduced the Patient and Public Involvement Forums. There are around 560 of these Forums, organised locally, to encourage people to feed their views back into the health service. The NHS want people to become involved and are encouraging people to volunteer to be on these Forums. For more information, call 0845 120 7115.
Information taken from the 'Making Your Neighbourhood Family Friendly' guide; a joint initiative by the Local Government Association (LGA) and National Family & Parenting Institute (NFPI). For a copy of the full guide email: email@example.com or tel: 020 7664 3131
Article produced by the Choose Action Alliance.