What are consultations and tips on taking part
Consultation involves the public in the work of government. It is an integral part of the policy-making process. Find out more and get some tips on how to take part in consultations.
Benefits of consultations
Although it is important, running a consultation is not simply about more open government. It is about making policies more effective by listening and taking onboard the views of the public and interested groups. Listening to the public has a number of specific benefits:
- it allows government to tap the widest source of information possible which improves the quality of the decision reached
- it alerts policy makers to any concerns and issues not picked up through existing evidence or research
- it helps to monitor existing policy and determine whether changes are needed
Consultation documents follow guidelines to help ensure that a common standard exists across government for consulting the public. When government consults it must:
- build a realistic timeframe for the consultation, allowing plenty of time for each stage of the process
- be clear as to who is being consulted, about what and for what specific purpose
- ensure that the document is as simple and concise as possible - it should include a summary and clearly set out the questions it wishes to address
- always distribute documents as widely as possible, using electronic means (but not at the exclusion of others)
- make sure all responses are carefully and open-mindedly analysed and the results made widely available, with an account of the views expressed and the reasons for decisions finally taken
Tips on taking part in consultations
Many people and organisations take part in government consultations. The following tips may help you to put together a well conceived response that stands out.
Use one short sentence to explain each point you want to make, this will help the reader understand your opinion. You can always add more detail afterwards if necessary.
Focus on what is really important to you
Put the issues you care most about first, so the reader can see your biggest concerns. If you want to make more detailed comments, put them in an appendix to your response or in a separate document.
Your arguments will be more convincing if they're supported by evidence or information. If you're responding by post or email, send in copies of supporting documents rather than information about where to find them.
Send your response as soon as possible
The earlier you send in your views, the longer the department has to consider them. This is particularly important if you are providing new information or evidence.
Reply to the questions
If the consultation asks for your views on particular questions, clearly state which questions you're answering before setting out your views.
Say who you are
Say whether you're commenting as a private citizen, representing other citizens, or on behalf of an organisation.
Say if you want your response kept confidential
The consulting department may publish your views as part of the results of the consultation. If you do not want them to do this, state it clearly in your response.
For details of publications and current consultations going on across government in Northern Ireland, see the departmental websites: