Consult widely throughout the process, allowing a minimum of 12 weeks for written consultation at least once during the development of the policy.

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Criterion 1: Consult widely throughout the process, allowing a minimum of 12 weeks for written consultation at least once during the development of the policy.

  1. Consultation is a continuous process that needs to be started early in the policy development process.
  2. It is important to identify proactively relevant interested parties and those whom the policy will be likely to affect. These groups should be contacted and engaged in discussion as early as possible in the policydevelopment process.
  3. Informal consultation with these stakeholders should be conducted prior to the written consultation period. Not only does this lead to a more informed consultation exercise but it also ensures that stakeholders are engaged early and have a better understanding of the policy.
  4. The formal consultation period should always include a written consultation exercise. This written consultation period should be a minimum of 12 weeks. Departments should consider the specific circumstances of their stakeholders and consider longer consultation periods at certain times, for example during the summer holiday period.
  5. Although there will sometimes be circumstances that require a consultation period of less than 12 weeks, this should be the exception and should be avoided wherever possible. Such circumstances may be timetables set out in statute; those unavoidably dictated by EU or other international processes; those tied to the Budget or other annual financial cycles; measures where there is a health and safety or security dimension; or some other urgent requirement for the introduction of new measures. Where re-consultation takes place on the basis of amendments made in the light of earlier consultation, a shorter period may also be appropriate.
  6. Where a consultation takes place over a holiday period or lasts less than 12 weeks, extra effort should be made to ensure that the consultation is still effective, by supplementing the written exercise with other methods of consultation.
  7. Where a consultation period is less than 12 weeks this must be highlighted in the consultation document, which should explain the Minister’s reasons for this, and the extra efforts taken to ensure that the consultation is as effective as possible.
  8. Some stakeholders, for example small businesses, children, consumers and those from minority communities, may be particularly difficult to reach. It is important to engage proactively with individuals, organisations and trade associations. Written consultation is not the only or even always the most effective means of consultation. Other forms of consultation may help in this process. These might include: stakeholder meetings;public meetings; web forums; public surveys; focus groups; regional events; and targeted leaflet campaigns.

See Criterion 2