In the last two chapters, we have discussed some of the new methods being tried out to achieve survivor representation. These include domestic violence forums or advisory groups, structured representation through women's projects and the role of national and local campaigning and lobbying organisations in representing abused women's views. However, there is a wide variety of other methods which are currently in use. We discuss these in this chapter and also consider how to convert the results of participation processes into action and policy change.
We hear a great deal about focus groups these days, even though the term is rarely defined properly or used in its original sense (Greenbaum, 2000; Krueger, 2000). For the present Government, their use has become something of a mantra. Focus groups are a popular policy option in attempting to gather diverse views to inform policy-making of all types. Thus, it is almost inevitable that they should also be used in domestic violence work.
In the past few years, focus groups of domestic violence service users have been convened in a few local areas to represent women's views within the policy process. Such groups can be used to consider various aspects of policy or inter-agency work, to comment on specific policy developments and to advise on survivors' groups in general and on how to improve consultative mechanisms. They can also comment on wider developments in the domestic violence field. However, they are firmly positioned within the 'consultation' end of the range of user involvement strategies and rarely move beyond this.
A recent example of focus groups being used in this field is provided by the London Borough of Newham, which has conducted a domestic violence consultative process of this type. A few other localities have carried out general focus group consultation on behalf of inter-agency forums and, in others, specialised focus groups with, for example, black and minority ethnic women have also been held to identify specific relevant issues, gaps