The research, based on the process of preparing the Valencian Community Social Services Law, concludes that citizen participation results in greater co-responsibility of society in the elaboration of public policies. The work of Glòria Maria Caravantes, researcher-in-training at the Interuniversity Institute for Local Development (IIDL) of the University of Valencia, exposes, however, the difficulty of people using social services to participate in these processes.
According to the study, the entire process, in addition to legitimising political action, guarantees the right of citizen participation. Glòria Maria Caravantes stresses the shared and plural nature of the project, which has helped to revalue democratic principles and the foundations of social cohesion.
“We must not forget that the professional people of the Municipal Social Services are the ones who have the most knowledge of the social reality of people. The fact that, at political will, different spaces of participation of society were promoted, forced those with political responsibility in the matter to forego their influence on the structuring of the norm”, explains Caravantes. The author also highlights that the large-scale participatory process undertaken in this law is being replicated in other housing and education regulations.
The study, «The right of participation in social policies: the participatory process for the elaboration of the Valencian Law of Social Services», describes the four stages in which the participatory process to produce the Valencian Community Social Services Law was developed.
The first phase, which took place from October 2015 to May 2016, consisted of an open consultation to citizens through a digital platform of the Valencian Government. Users of social services, professionals in the field, as well as other actors (third sector entities, universities, trade unions…) made their contributions to the preparatory text of the law.
The second stage, which lasted from December 2016 to November 2017, focused on the preparation of descriptive sheets of different aspects of the regulations in preparation, which were filled out by social actors and local entities. These responses were essential for the drafting of a working document, prepared by a technical and a political group, made up of municipal representatives and experts in social services.
In the third phase, the content of the technical document was deepened and concepts were clarified. To collect professional opinion, questionnaires were sent to social partners and participatory workshops were organised with experts from all over Spain in third generation legislation on social services and professional people from Social Services. With all this information, the Prelimianry Law was drafted.
Finally, the fourth stage included the allegations phase and the parliamentary procedure, until its approval, in January 2019.
Development of social services
The Social Services Law was approved last year in order to improve the critical situation presented by the Valencian Community in the DEC index (a tool to evaluate the development of social services). In addition, the rule was intended to update the legislation that governed the social services model until now, from 1997, which had been outdated, according to the people behind the current law.
The objective was to create a third generation Valencian regulation, which implied the consecration of social services as a subjective right of citizens and the elaboration of a catalogue of basic benefits for all citizens.
Glòria Maria CARAVANTES LÓPEZ DE LERMA, «El derecho de participación en las políticas sociales: el proceso participativo para la elaboración de la Ley valenciana de Servicios Sociales», Cuadernos de Trabajo Social [online], consulted on March 5, 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5209/cuts.65682