1 Know your timings before you start
Check when the consultation is open from and until and if there is a specific format you have to respond in. Putting together a response with good evidence often takes more time than people think. Check when the outcomes of the consultation are to be published and follow up as appropriate depending on the outcomes.
2 You do not have to respond to every question in a consultation
Choose to respond to the areas you feel are important and relevant to the people you represent. Concise responses with clear points will have a much bigger impact.
3 Do your research
This starts with reading the consultation carefully, making sure you understand the content and making notes as you go along. Ensure that the points in your response are backed up by evidence and include references for the evidence in your response. Ensure that you use respected evidence for example it may be a report produced by the government or a response to a Freedom of Information request. If you have obtained permission to do so, case studies and quotes from the people you serve or who would be affected by the consultation can also provide strength to your argument as well as giving a personal, more emotive dimension.
4 Know your key asks
or messages are and headline these at the start of your response and if appropriate, the start of paragraphs too. You should be able to summarise your whole response in one sentence and either begin or end with that sentence.
5 Put aside preconceptions about the consultation publisher
If you agree with some of the measures or points raised be sure to say so in your response. Whilst there may be much you disagree with in the consultation, mentioning points you agree with can add credibility by showing your response is not simply an act of showing the government contempt but is a reasoned and considered argument.
6 Number or section your responses
Doing so makes it easier for those receiving the response from you to query specific points.
7 Ensure others are involved in your response
Be clear if you are responding on behalf of an organisation or as an individual. If it is on behalf of an organisation then ensure that those who need to be are involved and have read through the final response before it is submitted – trustees for example. You should also ensure your response has been proofread before submitting it and that you’ve allowed enough time.
8 Criticise appropriately
If you are criticising a point or measure, ensure you offer a solution as well. It is fine to be emotive as long as you remain polite. For example, “We feel it is scandalous that only 27 per cent of working age blind and partially sighted people are in paid employment.”
9 Spell out abbreviations and explain jargon
Be sure to explain technical or industry specific jargon because what may be common terminology for you may not be to the person reading the response.
10 Offer to discuss the consultation further
For example, note at the end, “We would be delighted to work with you further on this in the future.”