Implementation guidelines for non-government community services

Standard 3. Consumer and carer participation

Page last updated: 2010

Consumers and carers are actively involved in the development, planning, delivery and evaluation of services.

The intent of this standard is to ensure that service providers engage in ongoing consultation with consumers, carers and others in its community regarding the planning, delivery, development, monitoring and evaluation of services. The service provider should ensure that support and training is given where appropriate.

Participation (criteria 3.1, 3.2)
Support and training (criterion 3.3)
Advocacy (criteria 3.4, 3.5)
Employment of consumers and carers (criterion 3.6)
Documentation of participation (criterion 3.7)

Participation (criteria 3.1, 3.2)

Fundamental to the Principles of Recovery Oriented Mental Health Practice is the active participation of the consumer and, with their consent, their carers. This involves all aspects of the service provided and, more broadly, the way the organisation operates. Active participation empowers consumers and gives them control in their situation.

Service providers must understand that the way:
  • staff relate to and speak about consumers and carers
  • consumers and carers relate to staff
  • programs are structured and delivered
  • the organisation embraces (or doesn't embrace) consumer driven initiatives
are all part of the organisational culture that send messages to consumers and carers about how they are viewed.

Consumer and carer participation can occur across many levels, including:
  • treatment and care
  • employment as consultants and advocates
  • service delivery and evaluation
  • policy development and individual and service planning
  • education and training
  • staff recruitment.
Methods need to be used that are appropriate to the service being provided and appropriate to the needs and circumstances of consumers and carers. The goal is to engage and support them in all areas of service planning, delivery, evaluation and quality assurance activities.

Evidence that these criteria are met could include:
  • giving consumers information about their rights and their role in recovery goal setting, individual service planning and review
  • documenting active participation by consumers in the development of their recovery goals and individual support plans
  • individual service review arrangements that demonstrate how consumers were actively involved in the process
  • annual formal consumer feedback surveys with findings being used to support continuous service improvement
  • regular consumer feedback meetings conducted by the service provider
  • documenting consumer contributions to strategic plans and service evaluations
  • consumer and carer positions on boards being mandated in the organisation's constitution
  • consumer and carer representation on, for example, service planning, delivery, evaluation activities, quality assurance committees
  • demonstrating how consumer and carer feedback contributes to continuous service improvement. Top of page

Support and training (criterion 3.3)

Where consumers, carers or others are involved, the service provider should ensure that there is access to training and support where required.

Evidence that this criterion is met could include:
  • documenting the training and support provided.

Advocacy (criteria 3.4, 3.5)

Consumers and carers should be given information about the role of advocates and advocacy organisations, and how to access advocacy services.

This could include a list of state and territory organisations such as:
Where a service provider employs consumers and carers as advocates their role must be clear, meaning the extent to which they are accountable to management and the extent to which they are accountable to consumers who use the service. Arrangements should also be in place to assist them when conflicts arise.

Evidence that these criteria are met could include:
  • posters on display that advertise the role of the state and territory Public Advocate or Public Guardian, and other mental health advocacy services
  • complaints management information brochures containing information about rights to engage an advocate, and how to do so
  • employing a peer support worker or having trained peer support volunteers
  • documenting the training given to peer support workers, volunteers and consumer and carer advocates
  • documenting in individual records the support consumers and carers were given to access advocacy and support services. Top of page

Employment of consumers and carers (criterion 3.6)

Consumers and carers can be employed to fill any 'mainstream' position for which they are qualified. They can also be employed in specialist roles such as consultants and liaison, and to conduct research.

Consumer or carer staff members should be well informed about what processes are in place to protect, advise and support them. Mentoring and supervision should be provided, as should training and support where required.

Evidence that this criterion is met could include:
  • consumers and carers being employed in 'mainstream' positions
  • peer support workers being employed or having trained peer support volunteers
  • guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of peer support workers (paid and volunteer)
  • documenting arrangements that support them
  • documenting training given to peer support workers and consumer and carer advocates. Top of page

Documentation of participation (criterion 3.7)

Evidence that this criterion is met could include:

Policies and procedures should include documentation of consumer and carer participation including:
  • the process for choosing consumers, carers and other representatives and the length of time for which the selections will be made
  • arrangements for payment (either direct or in kind) and reimbursement for expenses, in accordance with the consumer's preference
  • arrangements for training and skills development
  • identification of equipment, space and budget requirements
  • arrangements for consultation with the consumer and carer constituency
  • documenting activities, numbers, hours, payments (direct or in kind) and reimbursements involving consumers and carers
  • documenting training and support arrangements for consumers and carers in peer support, advocacy and other representative roles, and feedback from consumers and carers on the effectiveness of these arrangements
  • training and information given to staff so they understand the importance of consumer and carer participation and how to get the most from it
  • feedback from consumer and carer representatives that they feel valued and are satisfied with training and support arrangements.
Policies and procedures to demonstrate compliance with standard 3 will include but not necessarily be limited to those that address:
  • consumer and carer participation in personal service planning and review
  • consumer and carer participation in organisational planning, program design and review and evaluation arrangements, including training and support, mentoring and supervision for peer
  • support workers, volunteers, carers and consumers in specialist roles
  • consumer and carer representation on committees.
It is important to remember that policies and procedures alone are not sufficient to demonstrate that a service provider is meeting a standard’s requirements. It is also necessary to demonstrate how the policies and procedures have been implemented and guide organisational practices and behaviours.