Do public consultations matter? The case of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill

Kaehne, Axel Do public consultations matter? The case of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill. Rebels and Radicals, 64th Annual International Conference, 16th April 2014, Manchester.

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Abstract

Abstract Background: The Welsh Government has embarked on significant legislative projects since devolution. Welsh legislative efforts are however marked by the low scrutenizing capacity of a relatively small legislative chamber and limited civil service ability to prepare legislation. This means that the Welsh Government relies more heavily on input through public consultations prior to parliamentary scrutiny and external expertise. The study investigated the public consultation (stage 1) for the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill (2013).3 Aims and Objectives: This was a pilot study to develop and test a coding matrix to analyse public consultations by devolved governments. The aim was to design and test the coding matrix through a small case study (the Welsh Social Services Bill) and to assess its utility for subsequent large scale comparative studies across devolved governments in the UK. Method: Following a literature review a coding matrix was designed to analyse consultation submissions. We then fed the publicly available data of the Social Service Bill (Wales) consultation (stage 1) in 2012/13 into the matrix. Descriptive statistics were conducted and the content of a sub-sample of purposively selected submissions were analysed in more detail. Results: The public consultation contained 84 submissions from various organisations and private individuals. The results demonstrate that consultation responses come from a wide range of actors, that there is some limited amount of interaction prior to submission between respondents, and that there is a significant amount of ʻwhite noiseʼ, submissions that are not related to the topic. The analysis also revealed that a significant number of participants use the consultation as an opportunity to engage in self-advocacy. Organisational analysis of participants also reveals some imbalance of submissions by sector. Conclusion: Public consultations are a useful mechanism to improve legislation prior to parliamentary debate through canvassing stakeholders and our study showed that the consultation provoked a range of responses from a wider variety of stakeholders. There is however some serious doubt whether the chosen technique matched the aims and objective of the consultation. This raises questions about tokenism, the role of external expertise and the ability of devolved governments to use consultations as a core mechanism for citizen and stakeholder engagement.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Social Work and Social Policy and Administration
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Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2014 15:59
URI: http://repository.edgehill.ac.uk/id/eprint/6194

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