Budgeting – a reflection on the range of approaches

Written by: Simon Cameron, Development Manager - Participatory Budgeting, COSLA

Simon reflects on some key messages that came from the Academy's recent event on human rights, gender and participatory budgeting

Listening to the discussion on the three models of human rights, gender and participatory budgeting, the thing that strikes me most is the simple message at the heart of each. As Dr Angela O’Hagan so succinctly put it “it’s about people”.  For me that is the message we have to keep coming back to if we are serious about addressing the challenges of inequality and deprivation that we have in society.  It is the focus we must have if we are to deliver meaningful and effective public services that truly meet the needs of our communities.  Moving beyond delivering services at people, because that is how we have always done it, and effectively engaging and listening to what people need so that we deliver with them.

The different lenses discussed at the budgeting masterclass allow us to better understand the complicated world we live in.  However, recognising the simple message from each approach that people and all of the characteristics and circumstances that make them who they are is vital.  We must see the person and not just any one part of them.  A person centered approach means that we must value, trust and engage with people to ensure the decisions we make, whether at a national or local level, are ones that impact positively on people’s lives. In valuing the lived experience people have, we can trust that they themselves can best express what their own needs are and we can then engage with them to look at what, as services providers, we can or should be providing.

The message of ceding power for me is to stop making assumptions and recognise that as service providers we do not have all of the answers nor can we make all of the decisions alone.  We should be supporting and giving voice to our communities by engaging with individuals and groups.  The challenge we face, if we value the public services that we have, is changing the way in which we work to better recognise all of the opportunities we have to listen to and engage with our communities.  If we can value the lived experience as much as the statistic on the page then we can start to change our models of delivery.  Using any and all of these approaches to how we budget puts people at the centre.