Consultation Confusion

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Tpas Policy and Insight Manager, Caritas Charles, gives his top tips for successful consultations.

Hi Everyone

We always seem to be in a middle of a consultation if you’re a tenant in a group or a member of staff there is always one bubbling away on the back of the engagement stove; be it an estate review or a lettings policy, consultations are the lifeblood of engagement. All to often though we get it wrong (I know I have). Badly done consultations can have lasting effects that go beyond what you’re consulting on.

Here below are my top tips to avoid the pitfalls, its by no means definitive but I would be interested in hearing your experiences and any dangers I have missed.


1. Why are we doing this?

It may sound like a simple question but sometimes its harder to answer than you think. You might be tempted to say, “because we want tenants to have a voice.” But what does that mean, what are the outcomes of the consultation and what benefits do tenants and landlords get from taking part.


2. What can change?

Consultation is defined as meaning “the action or process of formally consulting or discussing.” Consultation can just be sharing what you’re going to do and inviting comment, and that is when misunderstandings happen.

We need to be clear from the start about what parts are up change and what is set in stone. Failure to clearly set this out can store up a ton of problems for the future the most damaging of all being a sense from those taking part that their views are meaningless as they feel their voices aren’t being heard.


3. It's great to communicate

If a consultation doesn’t have a communications plan, then there is no point in doing it. We can’t just rely on the tried and tested like going to your engaged tenant groups or sticking something in a newsletter. We need to do all this and more. A good plan will use all the communications tools at your disposal such as:

  • Tenant groups
  • Community groups
  • Newsletters
  • Community publications and websites
  • Social media
  • Community Stalls

And most important of all the staff and tenant volunteers in your organisation who will meet countless people from day to day.


4. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

The most common feedback when I ask people about consultations, they have taken part in is that they don’t get any feedback! Nothing is more frustrating than spending the time letting people know how you feel and getting nothing in return. It’s as important to plan your feedback as it is your consultation itself.

Ask yourselves these questions when considering how to let people know the results:

  • Do you know if the participant wants feedback
  • Do you know how they would like to be told (email, letter, meeting)
  • If their views aren’t adopted, how will you explain this
  • If their views are considered, how will you explain they will be used
  • How will you measure success and inform those taking part
  • Have you considered informing participants over the short medium and long term


5. Have we the time and resource

A great consultation is only as good as the time you’ve got to do it. If everything is pulled together at the last minute without proper timescales its guaranteed to be poor when it comes to the results you get. A good list of things to consider are:

  • Deadline and is that flexible
  • Is it a statutory requirement
  • What resources are available (financial, people, equipment)
  • Is their senior managerial support (vital in case of obstacles)


Well, those are my top tips as I said at the start its not a perfect list but having them in mind has helped me through many a consultation and beyond.

I hope they are useful.