How to respond to Government consultations

25 Mar 2021 Déarbhla Sloan    Last updated: 25 Mar 2021

Responding to Government consultations is vital to ensure that the voices of all of society are incorporated into the policy development process.

Although the Northern Ireland Executive have been increasingly adopting a co-design and co-production policy development process, consultations are still very much at the forefront of engagement and a popular method that enables the views of the public to be incorporated into policy proposals and strategies.

It is not only organisations and businesses that are invited to respond but individuals can also submit responses to consultations.

We understand however responding to a consultation can be quite overwhelming and may seem daunting. It is important for Government to hear the voices of all in our society and we would encourage everyone to respond.

To help you understand how to respond to consultations, below we have outlined the main points to remember in order to ensure all voices are heard and listened to.

How to respond:

Format

There is no set format to submit your consultation response however a well-structured response will help departments and officials to extract that information you are presenting. It may be beneficial to structure your response similar to the consultation document. Using the same layout and subheadings will assist the department when examining your response but it will also help you to focus your response.

It is advised to state your organisations name and provide a brief description; if you are responding as an individual, you can simply state your name. You should also state if you would like your response to be kept confidential.

Language

Your consultation responses should be clear, succinct, and jargon-free. If you are responding to a particular theme/subject that requires you to use terminology specific to your field of work it may be helpful to also provide a short definition.

Response length

Short responses that cover the key areas are just as acceptable as longer responses. Many government consultations ask specific questions however it is acceptable to respond to only the questions you have experience of and can offer a distinct perspective on.

Consultation questions

Although it is important to provide additional information from your own perspective you should initially prioritise the questions that the Department are specifically asking. It may be beneficial to answer these questions at the start of your response and then provide a further information section that will include other areas that you feel the Department should consider.

Collaboration

There can be several Government consultations open at one time and therefore collaboration with similar thinking organisations is a good idea. A joint response can save time and allow more organisations to become involved in the consultation, especially if there are several consultations open at once. A collaborative approach can also help departments to understand how widely and strongly views are held.

Evidence and Research

It is important to ensure that any research and evidence that you have referred to in your consultation response is referenced.

Room for improvement?

If you feel that there is room for improvement specific to the consultation process, it is acceptable to state this within your consultation response. Feedback on the process is always useful and can help shape future consultations.

To keep up to date with Government consultations in Northern Ireland visit Consultations | Northern Ireland Executive

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