First Citizens’ Assembly in NI to discuss social care for elderly

A previous meeting of the Citizens' Assembly
A previous meeting of the Citizens' Assembly

Social care for older people will be the main topic under discussion when the Province’s first Citizens’ Assembly is formed this weekend.

Run by UK public participation charity Involve, the Citizens’ Assembly will consist of approximately 80 citizens selected at random to represent the population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, regional spread, community background, and socio-economic status.

It is an initiative designed to demonstrate the potential of ‘deliberative democracy’ to help break the stalemate on contested issues and put citizens from Northern Ireland at the heart of decision-making.

The Citizens’ Assembly will first meet this weekend and again from November 16 to 18, in two residential weekends in the Europa Hotel led by Professor Ann Marie Gray from Ulster University.

Over the two weekends members will look at the public’s aspirations for social care for older people, including the role the health service, communities and individuals need to play.

The output from the process will be recommendations to bring the social care system into the 21st century within the context of limited resources.

It should be noted the Citizens’ Assembly currently has no legislative or statutory decision-making powers and will operate in an advisory capacity.

Tim Hughes, director of Involve, said: “We’re excited to be holding Northern Ireland’s first ever Citizens’ Assembly this weekend.

“We’re pleased that the Department of Health has committed to take on board the conclusions as they develop plans for the future of social care in Northern Ireland.”

The Department of Health’s Sean Holland said: “A key aspect of the Reform Project is the need to have open and honest discussion between citizens and government about people’s rights, entitlements and responsibilities with regard to social care.

“The Citizens’ Assembly will be a great asset to this ongoing discussion.”