Difficulties with the committee

    Your agenda papers are incomplete

    If you find discussion taking place on papers you have not seen, interrupt the discussion and ask for a copy of the papers being discussed. If an item is important, ask that it is deferred until you or others have had time to read the paper and consider the issues. Occasionally papers are circulated to some members of the committee, but not to all.

    The agenda papers are late

    You need to receive the agenda papers in time to consult properly with your organisation and its constituents. This will vary according to the work of the committee, but you will usually need at least a week before the meeting to prepare properly.

    The agenda is extremely long

    Extensive agendas can lead to problems such as:

    • the committee's efforts being directed to day-to-day or urgent issues
    • the committee not having time to discuss all of the agenda items and broader or long-term issues
    • the committee appearing to be very busy and productive, but actually avoids the hard work or achieve outcomes or
    • the committee not facing the real issues.

    It is necessary to assess which items are really worth spending time on, where the decisions have direct effects on consumers, both in your preparation, and in committee discussions.

    The committee is insisting on a 'view', but you haven't consulted your organisation -what should you do?

    Occasionally the committee will require you to give your opinion, or to vote on a motion, when you have not had time to consult with your constituency. If this happens:

    • you can give an interim opinion (and state that it is such), pending consultation
    • if you feel it is important, ask for time to consult. The item can then be deferred until the next meeting
    • if you are unable to present the consumer view for a particular group of consumers, flag with the committee the need to undertake further consultation.

    Consumer representatives can use the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, other consumer rights statements and consumer principles to explain the consumer perspective to the committee when they have not canvassed the views of consumers or if consumers are divided over an issue.

    You are having problems getting heard

    This may occur:

    • on a committee that has not had consumer representation before. It may take time to gain acceptance and for some committee members to realise the importance and value of the consumer perspective
    • when the committee is primarily made up of technical experts, often talking their own jargon. In this situation you will need to ask committee members to avoid using jargon and to explain or provide you with a list of acronyms.

    You doubt the evidence

    If the facts are misrepresented, ask the person to verify these facts. You must be prepared to verify your own facts. You may wish to bring in an expert to put views on your behalf. Arrange this before the meeting with the whole committee if possible or at least with the Chairperson.

    Existing research and data are often used to support an issue. The research can sometimes indicate only part of the story. If this is the case, it is useful if you can demonstrate the larger picture.

    You disagree with a major decision

    If you disagree with a major decision of the committee, ensure that this should be recorded in the minutes, or even stated in the final report. Always let your nominating organisation know if you disagree with a major decision.

    'I thought we'd agreed on that'

    When a decision is reached, and everyone is committed to it, it is important to verify everyone's understanding of the agreement and if any action will result from the decision.

    You can help to clarify issues by summing up or asking someone else to sum up the understanding of the agreement. The final agreement is recorded in the minutes.

    If no minutes are recorded, you should write down your understanding of the decisions for further reference.

    Something 'agreed on' is never carried out

    If a decision has been made but not yet implemented, you may wish to follow it up at the next meeting.

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