Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Cabinet Office [Minister for Women]

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 output.

  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 publication—Voices.

  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

  I hope this is useful, and please let me know if I can help further.

The Rt Hon The Baroness Jay Paddington

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