Deliberative decision-making on the Norwegian County Social Welfare Board

Marit Skivenes and Milfrid Tonheim (2016)
Journal of Public Child Welfare

Are laypersons equally valued as experts in a decision making body? The aim of this paper is to examine how members of a decision-making team—members with widely varying expertise and competency—experience crucial conditions for reasoned decision-making, i.e., whether they are fully informed about the facts in the case, whether they experience that they are equal partners in the decision-making team, and whether they feel that their arguments and input are taken seriously. We managed to approach the entire population of expert and lay decision makers (N = 2888) on the Norwegian County Social Welfare Board with an online survey, and we received responses from 1598 decision makers. The study showed that overall, most expert members and lay members felt that they had sufficient information, that their arguments were respected, and that they were equal partners in the decision-making process. The role of the judge in the decision-making process was positively highlighted by the co-decision makers. However, some blind spots remain. Expert and lay members are not provided with documents in a timely manner before a hearing, and it is a concern that some lay members experience that their arguments were less important and that they were subordinate to the other decision makers on the team.