Earlier this week people who have experience of living in poverty and civil servants from policy areas that deal with Community Justice, Public Health and Public Service reform met together to evaluate and review a mentoring scheme which they have been involved in over the last 6 months.
People from both groups were paired together and have been meeting together regularly both in local communities and in Government offices to talk about each other’s lives and work. The meeting this week was a chance to reflect on the time that those involved took out of their busy lives to get to know more about each other. The initial aim for the scheme was that the pairings would meet 6 times over 6 months which was difficult in practise but was a good aim.
The group thought that the process had helped them to get to know someone new and that real relationships developed with real people which otherwise they might not have met. The process purposely did not have a set agenda, only a sheet of suggestions of where to meet and ideas that they could consider. This worked well for those involved, allowing them to find a way of meeting which suited them. There was also a consensus that it was good to meet each other in their ‘home’ patch which also gave those involved a chance to meet other people from communities or colleagues. Being introduced to folk by local people made a big difference to the relationships formed.
Liz* and Julie* were both very nervous in the lead up to their first meeting however once they got to know one another this changed. In their meetings they went on walkabout tours, visited Bridging the Gap (a drop in which Liz is involved in), visited the Government offices in Edinburgh and met with the Ministers private secretary and local community police. Liz was challenged by the way Julie worked and meeting with her regularly helped her feel much more confident and connected to the political process. Julie very much appreciated the opportunity to get to know people as herself rather than as a civil servant and welcomed the chance to learn by getting a feel for things rather than through research.
There has been much to take away from the process:
- Learning, about how Government works and that civil servants are people and approachable;
- A reminder that society is made up of individuals and the policies made in Government impacts on those individuals;
- and how important it is not just to spend time behind a desk, but to broaden horizons by meeting with people directly.
A number of recommendations were made and it is hoped that another group of people will undertake the scheme in the New Year.
*Names have been changed.