Memorandum by the Cabinet Office [Minister
Thank you for your letter of 16 February asking for
contributions for the Committee's inquiry into "Innovations
in Public Participation".
The Women's Unit commissioned two pilot juries
to consider their role and potential contribution as a way of
consulting women. Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR),
an independent research organisation, developed and ran both juries
on behalf of the Unit. These were also the first ever women-only
juries to have taken place in the UK. Both juries considered childcare
provision and family-friendly employment for women in paid work.
The report Citizens' Juries: an appraisal
of their role based on the conduct of two women-only juries documents
the development of the juries, the recommendations reached and
the co-ordinated government response. It then appraises the jury
process from the women's perspective and finally considers the
value and role of citizens' juries as a consultative technique.
The juries took place in April and May 1998
in the centre of Nottingham. Fifteen women, who were recruited
to reflect a range of circumstances and experiences, took part
in each jury. On both occasions they were brought together to
address a broad policy question on childcare and family-friendly
working "what should be done to improve the quality of life
for working mothers"?
Developmental focus groups were carried out
to inform the structure and content of the juries. Following an
introductory evening session jurors spent three days hearing evidence
from a range of "witnesses" including an academic who
presented trends in women and mothers' labour market participation;
a panel of women who reflected on their different experiences
of combining paid work and family life; policy makers and childcare
organisations who discussed childcare needs and provision; and
speakers from the Treasury and the Institute of Fiscal Studies
who talked about financial arrangements for the support and provision
of childcare. A week or two following each jury, in-depth interviews
were carried out with nine members of each jury to explore their
experiences of the jury and their views about its process and
Jurors produced a set of wide-ranging recommendations,
which were considered, reflective and thoughtful. A written report
of each jury's recommendations was prepared, checked with each
juror and circulated to all relevant Government departments for
their responses. A co-ordinated written response was then sent
to each juror. The recommendations have informed developing Government
policy in this area, in particular the National Childcare Strategy.
These juries have a significant contribution
to make in involving the public in the policy decision-making
process. Citizens' juries have a number of attractive features,
in particular the unique way they enable participants to engage
with policy questions and move beyond initial perspectives to
reach more considered and reflective views.
Women's Attitudes to Combining Paid Work
and Family Life was carried out on behalf of the Women's Unit
by Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR), an independent
research organisation. It comprised face-to-face interviews with
a nationally representative sample of women aged 16 and over in
Great Britain. In total 962 women took part. The research also
involved six focus groups, which added to an understanding of
the underlying factors that shape women's attitudes about paid
work, childcare and family-friendly employment practices.
The Listening to Women campaign covered the
period February to July 1999. There were three elements to this
campaign; focus groups conducted by MORI, prepaid postcard questionnaires
and a series of ministerial regional roadshows. Over 30,000 women
participated in the exercise.
The findings of this consultation, together
with Government action for women were launched on 6 October in
an innovative magazine style publicationVoices.
The messages we heard during the Listening to
Women campaign have led to a number of new key priorities for
the future work of the Women's Unit, who will also be working
closely across Government and external partners in taking these
findings forward. Summaries of these consultations can be found
on the Women's Unit website www.womens-unit.gov.uk.
I hope this is useful, and please let me know
if I can help further.
The Rt Hon The Baroness Jay Paddington