Promoting the Exercise of Consumer Choice and Control Project

This project investigated key enablers of consumer choice and control and developed and delivered training to build the capacity of the ageing, disability and mental health sectors to offer genuine choice and control to consumers.

Why?

Reforms across the ageing, disability and mental health sectors are increasing emphasis on consumer choice and control. The move to consumer-led models is challenging for many service providers as it involves significant practice change and many providers are facing financial, workforce and/or capability constraints affecting their preparedness for change.

What were the project objectives?

The project sought to:

  • identify key factors or principles that promote genuine consumer control and choice; and
  • build organisations’ capacity to incorporate these principles into their service planning and practice.

What did the project involve?

Mental Health Victoria led this project and National Disability Services (NDS) and Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) contributed to its development. It commenced in 2015 and concluded in 2019.

A literature review was conducted to define consumer choice and control and identify barriers and enablers for its realisation across different models and sectors. A series of consultations were held with service providers, peak bodies, consumers and carers. Consultations sought to identify promising models and key factors that lead to the adoption of consumer-led service models. Two practice papers were developed to synthesise the findings from the literature review and consultations. These findings, along with findings from the Panel’s Consumer Led Good Practice project, then informed the development of a training workshop for service providers.

Mental Health Victoria staff worked with a person with lived experience of disability to develop the training materials and facilitate the workshops. Three workshops were delivered to the NEMA, Western and Frankston Communities of Practice that were established as part of the Panel’s Communities of Practice project. Approximately 30 people attended each workshop.

This project also developed a webpage containing resources from the workshop and other resources to extend learning on promoting consumer choice and control – see www.peccc.org.au

What did we learn?

The project highlighted the complexities inherent in consumer choice and control and identified several key elements that can promote its realisation.

The project found there are many different definitions and interpretations of consumer choice and control. Views of staff, consumers and peer workers often differed as stakeholders grappled with their roles under the changes. In some instances, service providers applied a narrow interpretation and consumers reported very limited opportunity to choose or influence service delivery. In other cases, the principle was evident across the organisation. The project found that consumer choice and control must be embedded within the culture of service provider organisations in order to be fully realised.

Co-production was identified as a key lever for genuine consumer choice and control. However, it requires considerable resources and may not be well understood by staff or consumers and carers, affecting stakeholders’ capacity to engage.

Several key actions were identified that could assist service providers to promote consumer choice and control. These included:

  • building broad partnerships with consumers
  • addressing accessibility and difference
  • supporting consumer empowerment and independence
  • developing strategies for community inclusion through peer support, advocacy / self-advocacy and supportive decision-making
  • facilitating access to the amount or degree of choice and control that is sought by the consumer.

Organisations found to be demonstrating aspects of best or promising practice identified several factors underpinning good practice. These included having a shared understanding of choice and control, a clear value base that recognised consumer choice and control, a commitment to sharing lived experience, an effective framework for co-production with consumers and opportunities for consumer and carer employment and/or appointment to organisation Boards.

The project identified a need for greater cross-sector training and collaboration to support broad realisation of genuine consumer choice and control. The project’s training workshop focused on integrating principles of consumer choice and control into service design and delivery. The training incorporated case studies and consumer insights on consumer-led service delivery.

This project was funded by State Trustees Australia Foundation

Download the project summary PDF