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Communication Forum Scotland

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Public engagement activitiesPublic engagement activities

Inclusive participation

The aim of this toolkit is to help remove barriers to active citizenship for people with communication support needs.

To remove barriers all public engagement activities should be communication accessible. 

We have developed 6 Communication Support Principles to help service providers do this.

Go to Practical examples to see how to put these into practice.

Good practice in public engagement

These Communication Support Principles should work alongside recognised good practice in community engagement.

  • involve people from the start of the process

This encourages working in partnership. It means that participants will not feel the decision has already been made without their involvement.

  • work at a pace that suits both you and your participants

You should allow enough time for participants to consider issues properly.

  • provide information that is clear, timely and accessible

If you don't allow people enough time to take in the information, you are effectively excluding them from the participation process.

  • provide a range of ways to take part

Not everyone can or wants to get involved at the same level or in the same way. Provide a range of participation methods. By doing this, you will increase the opportunities for people to get involved in a way that suits them.

  • provide support to increase the opportunity of involvement

As well as communication support needs, participants may require, for example, child care or help with transport.

They may also require training or capacity building.

  • always provide participants with feedback and outcomes

It is very important that participants get clear feedback. There is nothing worse than giving up your time, then not hearing what has happened. If people get feedback they will be more motivated to get involved next time.

  • regularly review what works and what does not work about your participation methods

National Standards for Community Engagement were published in 2005.  Details are available from Scottish Community Development Centre www.scdc.org.uk/national-standards-community-engagement.

Types of engagement

The 6 Communication Support Principles relate to all public engagement activities. 

One-to-one engagement whether face to face, by telephone, letter, email or other electronic means.

For example: 

  • lobbying an MP
  • getting information at a Citizens Advice Bureau
  • making a complaint to the Council
  • applying to be a volunteer.

Engagement with a group or whole population.

For example: 

  • NHS Public Patient Forums
  • Scottish Youth Parliament
  • voting
  • consultation around service or policy development.

In Scotland, there is a commitment to developing ways to include a wide range of interests in decision-making, including:

People with communication support needs are included in all these groups.  They may face therefore multiple barriers to participation.

Video Video quote: Campbell

Adopt the 6 Communication Support Principles in public engagement activities whoever your target audience. This will make your public engagement more inclusive. 

Benefits of inclusion to service providers


The Disability Equality Duty provides the legal framework for public engagement.  This gives disabled people a right to equal access to information and services. 

But there are other clear benefits for service providers and services users if decision-making and consultation is more accessible to a wider audience:

  • it targets resources more effectively
  • it ensures a customer focused service
  • it leads to increased customer satisfaction.

Next issue continue to Communication Support Principles in practice to see how to increase the accessibility of your public engagement activities.

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