Communications tips for consumer directed care

Older woman sitting outside smiling consumer directed care

The growth of consumer directed care in community services in Australia presents exciting opportunities for clients and organisations alike.

With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Consumer Directed Care, many clients of disability, mental health and aged care services have the power and control to select their services.

This type of service delivery is likely to increase in the future. In fact, the Productivity Commission public inquiry into human services and increased competition and choice is well underway. Recommendations and a final report are expected to be released in October 2017.

So what does this mean for your organisation? Communicating clearly and directly to current or potential customers is now more important than ever before.

Tips to make your communications customer-focused for consumer directed care

Speak directly to your consumers

The traditional way of describing community services is very different to the way of the future. In the past, a service was described in terms of the problem it solves or the issue it addresses. Clients were referred to with an impersonal term like ‘the individual’, sometimes with an added loaded descriptor of ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘marginalised’.

It’s time to flip the focus. You are now speaking directly to potential customers – how will they feel about being described as disadvantaged or marginalised? And importantly, what services can you provide that meet their goals and needs?

Speak directly to your customers, explain what you do in clear terms and drop any judgmental language.

Cut the jargon

The community services sector is full of complex language and acronyms, which can be overwhelming and confusing for people seeking services or support. If possible, remove acronyms from your vocabulary, or when they are used, make sure you spell them out and explain their meaning.

Make your communications accessible

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, close to 44% of people have low literacy levels and find it challenging to read and make sense of everyday information. Levels of low literacy were found to be higher for older people, with 67% of those aged 60-74 assessed as having lower levels of literacy.

People with an intellectual disability may need Easy English resources to understand the services you provide. Easy English is a style of writing and formatting that uses plain words, large text size, short sentences and images to convey meaning.

Use Plain English language as much as possible, and consider developing Easy English resources to ensure people can access the information they need about your organisation.

Check your language

Make sure you use respectful and inclusive language. There are many great resources available to support your communications which I’ve covered in the blog “Why words matter: writing that promotes inclusion”.

Seek specialised support

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations in Melbourne, Australia to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Most recently, I have focused on NDIS communications and sharing accessible information about the scheme and the supports available.

Learn more about my skills and experiences or get in touch to discuss your customer-focused communications needs.