Citizens’ Panel convened to help guide West Midlands coronavirus recovery

A new Citizens’ Panel has been set up to hear the views of a cross-section of the West Midlands and help guide the regional coronavirus recovery plan.

The new Citizens’ Panel set up to help guide the West Midlands’ recovery from COVID-19 has started hearing the views of a cross section of West Midlanders.

The group, which is made up of 36 residents representing the diverse make-up of the region, are spending the month learning about the impact of coronavirus on communities, and using that experience will help guide what the recovery plans should focus on.

Speaking during this year’s Carers’ Week (8-14 June), panel member Tracey Day from Hall Green, who is a professional carer, said she believes that healthcare is a priority for the region. 

Tracey works for Age UK, supporting people with dementia so they can live independently in their own home. Tracey said: “I joined the Citizens’ Panel for two reasons: one is to hear what other people feel, we’re all in our own bubble and you forget other people are going through the same situation. The other reason is to be heard – I have an opinion and I’d like to share it.

“Because I work in healthcare, for me the priority should be health. However, we also need to be looking after the elderly. There are so many lonely older people so we need to think about getting them safely back into the community, so they don’t feel so isolated.”

The Citizens’ Panel has been commissioned by the West Midlands Recovery Co-ordination Group (RCG), and their community engagement will complement the region’s ongoing economic recovery work.

Meeting online on a regular basis during June, Tracey and other 35 panel members are sharing their experiences, considering evidence on impacts from expert witnesses, and deliberating over challenging trade-offs, before putting forward a set of recommendations to the RCG.

Cllr Brigid Jones, the chair of the Citizens’ Panel steering group and WMCA portfolio holder for inclusive communities, explained that the panel members are from a wide range of backgrounds and have a wide range of experiences.

“I am delighted that they have agreed to contribute to the panel by spending time learning how key decisions that affect the West Midlands are made. By providing their views and informed opinions they will be helping to shape the direction of our region’s recovery”, she said.

The RCG will use the recommendations of the Citizens’ Panel to help inform the region’s political leaders on their post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

Deborah Cadman, chair of the RCG and chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) said: “The panel has got underway, meeting up to discuss and share thoughts on how the West Midlands can recover from this pandemic.

“Over the next few weeks, they will be working through a programme which will help them make a number of recommendations about how the West Midlands recovers from this pandemic. These will not just be about economic recovery, but about the West Midlands in its entirety.”

The programme is being delivered by BritainThinks, an independent insight and strategy agency, and is supported by Engage Britain, which is a charity focused on bringing together people with different views, knowledge and experience to help tackle the biggest challenges facing the country.