Partners in Policymaking

Partners in Policymaking is an umbrella name for a suite of leadership training courses for disabled adults, parents and carers of disabled children, professionals and other service providers working in education, health and leisure.

It has grown over the past twenty years into further leadership courses and the development of a national network of people - champions who believe that all people should have the right to live the life they choose.

Having a disability or having a disabled child means that you may need support. The support can come from lots of different places and organisations such as health, social services, education and leisure services. Sometimes trying to get what you need and getting access to the right information seems very complicated.


Partners in Policymaking and associated courses help people understand how the health and social care system works, organise meetings and present questions without getting frustrated. All Partners in Policymaking courses aim to help find solutions to improve people's lives and give participants the confidence to work in partnership to enable them or their loved ones to have choice and control over their lives.



Watch a short video introduction to Partners in Policymaking, a suite of leadership training courses for disabled adults, parents and carers of disabled children, professionals and other service providers working in education, health and leisure.

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About Partners in Policymaking and how it all began...

In 1986 in the state of Minnesota, United States of America, Colleen Wieck noticed a remarkable thing about the way public policy worked for self-advocates, parents and relatives of disabled people. Important policies and practices were being developed for them and about them, whilst these people were largely absent from the policymaking process. Colleen believed that this was because people were not offered the knowledge, skills, tools and networks to enable them to play a full part in the policymaking process. She believed that something could and should be done about this.


The result was the development of a leadership training course called Partners in Policymaking by Colleen Wieck Ph.D., Director of the Minnesota Governors Planning Council of Development Disabilities, and Ed Skarnulius Ph.D., of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The World Institute on Disability adopted the Partners in Policymaking programme in recognition of its potential as a model for leadership training for parents of disabled children and disabled adults. It soon became a rapid growing movement and graduates from the course soon became a driving force in the policy making processes in the United States.


In England in 1996 Lynne Elwell, Chris Gathercole and Paul Taylor adapted Partners in Policymaking for the UK and the first course was run in Oldham in the North West. Before this, the training that was available in the UK was designed for service workers. Sometimes parents would be invited, but it was hard to understand the language and how the systems worked.
Over time, Partners in Policymaking Courses developed and expanded and now run in most areas of the UK. Outside of England courses have also run in Scotland, Ireland, Holland and Portugal. The courses are coordinated and run by family members.


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Why we run Partners in Policymaking courses?

Whilst training professionals is important, it is the people who use the services who remain the same. They have the greatest stake in investing time and energy to ensure that things will change for the better. They have direct access to all the MP's, councillors and officials who make the policies that shape systems. We now have graduates from these courses in many areas across England; confident, competent people who are in this work for the long haul.


Disabled children, disabled adults and their families are frequently subject to high levels of stress and frustration, often due to lack of information, changing policies, practices and a moving population of people who support them. They are at risk of social isolation and social exclusion.


One of the best ways of reversing these negative experiences is to give up-to-date leading edge information, give the families the strategies, confidence and tools to work in partnership with service providers. The course enables and encourages participants to become actively engaged in the development of policy affecting disabled people both at local and national level. People who come on the course join a national network of disabled people and their families who can share good ideas and give support.


Our focus on developing community-based leadership has meant that we have a network of disabled people, family carers and service providers working together. At present this is only happening in some parts of the country, we want to make sure that anyone wanting to access courses can do. Since 1996 we have run courses locally and nationally, course graduates now number over 2500.

What makes Partners in Policymaking courses different?

All our courses have been developed to be as accessible, engaging and participatory as possible.

We invite a variety of speakers, many of whom have graduated from our courses and share their stories on how they have used the skills they have learnt to make life better for their family and supported others to do the same.

Some of the courses have participants that use services and professionals who provide services which is invaluable in getting everyone working together.

All of the courses cover a range of topics including person centred planning, support planning, housing, communication, employment,  personal budgets personal health budgets, and also the latest information on legislation. We teach people how policies are made at local and national level and encourage people to plan solutions rather than share problems.


How has Partners in Policymaking made a difference?

Graduates from all of Partners in Policymaking courses become part of a strong local, regional and national network. This network consists of people who have the skills and confidence they need to help each other plan for the future in a positive way.
Many graduates have gone on to get jobs, are using a direct payment or a personal budget and have helped to bring about change by getting involved in local politics, formed support groups and most importantly have used their skills to make a difference in their own families.
We firmly believe that working together is much more powerful than trying to do things by yourself.

See more about different types Partner in Policymaking courses here

Check out any forthcoming Partner in Policy making courses here

Hear what the participants say here