Blog: Involving people and improving services with Barbara Zaman

Some of people who can provide the greatest insight into how services operate are the people who regularly access them.

Listening to the feedback and acquired knowledge of people using services can not only assist with providing better service delivery, it also empowers people within services and shows that they have a platform to voice their valued opinions. This is a win-win situation, which can lead to better outcomes for both service users and providers.

These desirable effects are what led Barbara Zaman, Community Engagement Officer for Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol And Drug Partnership, to work closely with SDF’s National Quality Development Team to introduce a programme in D&G to ensure that all services were maximising their potential to involve people at every stage.

In this blog post, Barbara talks us through the process and tells us about the exciting ‘Involving People’ Toolkit that was developed as a result of the learnings found along the way.

Whilst working in my current role, for as long as I can remember I have always championed the importance of involving people in the design, development and evaluation of services.

Often in the past it wasn’t always well received or at least there would be lots of reasons why this would be a bad idea; for the organisation, its staff and of course those using services. I have been told we would be giving people aspirations and opportunities that we couldn’t fulfil, and it may feel like a ‘witch hunt’ by over worked and undervalued staff.

But as they say, good things come to those who wait, or at least those who don’t give up! and it was during this waiting and not giving up period that I have been fortunate to be given the opportunity to work on a joint project with the National Quality Development (NQD) team at Scottish Drugs Forum. I explained the problems I was having with developing involvement for people using drug and alcohol services in Dumfries and Galloway,  how important it was for it to be an integral part of each organisation (rather than just an add-on) and that it could be achievable by any organisation within a Recovery Orientated System of Care.  Fortunately, they had a similar approach on how to involve people in services and so we put together a proposal for Dumfries and Galloway’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) to fund this important joint work.

As a result of those initial discussions, we developed an eighteen-month initiative that would see myself and members of the NQD team work with eight services in D&G to look at how they could better involve people in their organisation and improve service quality.

It was as this process was coming to a natural end and organisations were continuing the process without the support of NQD and limited support from the ADP, that we felt something was missing. We realised, we needed a practical resource, which would underpin and reinforce the work we had been doing. We required something tangible that the staff could use to support this work. We also recognised that new staff coming into services required a foundation tool that would give them an understanding of why and how people can and should be given opportunities to be involved in improving service quality.

Using our experience of working in D&G and the feedback we received from the initial activity, we brought our skills and knowledge together to create a toolkit that would help services involve people and improve service quality.

We designed the ‘Involving People’ toolkit in such a way that it could be informative, systematic and easily used by both staff and volunteers. Our brilliant comms team brought it to life using co-ordinated graphics and a welcoming layout. Service users from Dumfries and Galloway addictions services contributed to the toolkit with reflections of why this work is important and the difference it can make to people’s lives.

Alongside the more comprehensive toolkit, we also designed a smaller printed booklet to be given to people who use services which covers the main themes in a more compact fashion and will complement the wider work.

To launch the toolkit, we held an event in Dumfries on the 10th of December 2019 for all services that were involved in the original process and presented the toolkit and booklet to them. On the day we ran a workshop to show how each service could use the toolkit and highlighted what support they might need.

It was great to see the culmination of all the hard work that had been put into the toolkit and it was amazing to see the engagement with the finished product. We were delighted with the feedback from those in attendance and the enthusiasm they showed for using the toolkit with people involved in their services.

We hope that everything you will need to start the process of involving people is in our toolkit but would encourage people to see it as the foundation of what services should be aiming for. Each service is unique and the toolkit should be a guide that enables services to promote a different way of working.

One that is inclusive, transparent and aspirational.

To find out more about the ‘Involving People’ toolkit and to enquire about receiving a copy, please contact Barbara at or call 01387 260930

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