10 top tips
for effective consultation

The NDIS is a deliberate effort to move away from the historically prescriptive and paternalistic approach to disability services and construct a more contemporary and individualised approach that also changes the balance of power. It is intended to put people with disability in the driving seat when it comes to deciding what services or supports they need and who will provide them. Embedded in this is massive social reform is recognition of the intrinsic value of each person in their own right.  It is time to stop defining people by a diagnosis or disability type or what someone can’t do.

Forward thinking service providers are committing to participatory models of service development and changing their practice to invite people with lived experience of disability to be truly involved in organisational processes from the very beginning.  The NDIS puts people with disability in charge of the purse strings and this makes listening to and involving customers not only the right thing to do, but a commercial requirement. In this environment, the term consultation is often widely used but poorly defined. Consultation is used to describe range of processes and practices that are not always altruistic.

In reality consultation occurs across a spectrum of collaboration, co-design, cooperation, and information. IAP2 is a globally recognised and widely utilised framework that neatly and succinctly explains the various elements. In the disability sector, providers can use consultation to support human rights, meet their contractual obligations or embed National Service Standards across their business. A person-centred approach means people with disability are part of the process and are actively engaged in decision-making processes.

These simple steps can help ensure consultation processes are authentic and effective.

Ten top tips for effective consultation

  1. Invite people to participate i.e. write, tweet, text, post, advertise
  2. Be prepared to at least pay the cost of participation i.e. transport, food
  3. Explain the scope of the work and be open about any constraints
  4. Offer information in a range of formats to ensure accessibility
  5. Tailor information to your audience i.e. age, literacy, culture, interest
  6. Use a range of engagement formats i.e. survey, world café, focus group
  7. Allow appropriate time
  8. Listen deliberately and reflect back to check you understand
  9. Provide feedback on how input is used and explain your conclusions
  10. Acknowledge people’s input in any public information