GDA was founded to support disabled people’s participation in decisions that affect us – and from our first ever big event in 2003 when we brought 50+ disabled people together with planners from NHS and Social Work to share our experiences, priorities and concerns for Health and Social Care Integration, GDA members have unwaveringly pursued every opportunity to speak out and work for change. With now over 5000 members, GDA is one of the biggest groundswells of community-led action in Scotland.
In 2011 the Christie Commission found that to meet the challenges ahead, public services in Scotland need to be designed ‘with and for’ people and communities, through engagement, empowerment and enablement. Since then, GDA members have contributed years of experience to help shape the Scottish Government Community Empowerment Act, and since 2017 have played a leading role in developing Scotland’s approach to Participatory Budgeting.
Participatory Budgeting is a way for people to have a direct say on how public money is spent. Disabled people, and GDA members, are all too familiar with the tick-box approach to involvement, where powerholders’ plans are presented for our comments, with little time or scope for change or a meaningful dialogue – it leaves communities and disabled people in particular feeling powerless, frustrated and unheard.
PB seeks to change this, by involving communities and citizens from the outset, in setting priorities, designing ways to tackle them, and making decisions about how best to use our collective resources. Councils across Scotland are aiming to commit 1% of their budgets to Participatory Budgeting processes by 2021.
GDA has been involved since 2017, with our action research project ‘Budgeting for Equality’. Our peer researchers found that disabled people want to participate, but are often excluded for doing so. The barriers that stop us participating, are exactly the issues disabled people would want to address if they had more say over public resources – so disabled people are locked out of decision making, by a cycle of exclusion. GDA members made recommendations for a more inclusive accessible roll-out of Participatory Budgeting in Glasgow and Scotland, and continued to work in partnership as Glasgow City Council launched PB Pilot projects in 2018.
GDA ran capacity building and awareness sessions with our members and other disabled people in each of the 4 pilot wards, to support disabled people’s access to and involvement in the processes. Our second PB report ‘Leaving No-one Behind‘ shared learning from these pilots. GDA members in Canal and Pollok wards were successful in their proposals and applications, and we continue to support these groups to drive forwards their ideas and share learning along the way.
COVID-19 has disrupted plans and lives across communities around the globe – and the pandemic has shown more starkly than ever, that those affected by inequality and exclusion must be involved and heard in planning solutions. GDA’s COVID-19 response was shaped directly by extensive engagement with our members, who highlighted huge gaps and unmet needs during lockdown and beyond – and we continue to channel this expertise and our members’ lived experience into emergency and resilience planning in Glasgow and Nation-wide. As discussion turns to how Participatory Budgeting can support COVID recovery and resilience planning, GDA members are ready as always to speak out and contribute their ideas.