Project Theme: Participating in civic and public life

Civic and public life is when people, as citizens, take action on things to do with public policy and practice, or get involved in the institutions that make them. ‘Public policy’ means decisions that affect lots of people, or particular groups of people. Such decisions might be taken by local councillors, or national governments, or European institutions. ‘Practice’ is how those decisions are implemented.

There are lots of activities and roles related to civic and public life. For example, these include things like voting in elections, or being a candidate in an election, or working together with others to lobby for local services that are at risk of being cut.  It involves people who are elected as members of local councils, national governments and the UK and European Parliaments.  It includes the people who elect them and work for them, like civil servants, advisors of all public bodies such as government departments and local authorities. It includes people in ‘non departmental public bodies’.  These are organisations like the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  If you want to be on the Board of organisations like these, you have to go through a process of public appointment.

For disabled people to participate equally and achieve independent living, they need practical assistance in all sorts of ways to be involved in civic and public life.  To be effective we need to have leadership and influencing skills.  Disabled people might need support to get these.  Or, if they have these skills, they need opportunities to use them.  It is not just about influencing decision makers but about more disabled people becoming decision makers themselves.  In this way, the decisions that affect disabled people would be made by people who really understand disability because they have personal, direct experience of it.  It means disability issues should be given more priority.

Within the theme of participating in civic and public life we are particularly interested in solutions that:

  • support the legal system, including civil and criminal justice systems, for example jury service and the judiciary, and/or the treatment of disabled witnesses, applicants, defendants and/or victims of crime
  • reduce the use of coercion and restraint, especially in health and social care settings
  • promote a wider definition of leadership and influence, beyond public appointment, to include membership of political parties and opportunities to progress once elected.