Should the format of your Compact be as important as its contents?

Cath CookWhen renewing your local Compact, should you focus your attention on discussing the appearance and format of the finished document, or should you be more concerned about the content?
The answer may seem obvious – until you take into account making your local Compact accessible to everyone.
In my role as Engagement Officer, I have visited many areas which are currently in the process of updating their original Compact.

Most of the areas I’ve worked with have concentrated primarily on the content, getting ‘buy in’ from key partners and ensuring that ‘meaningful engagement’ is carried out when consulting on the draft Compact.
The design and production of the finished Compact varies depending on the resources available in each area. Some areas have separate codes of practice in addition to their Compact, which are then produced in booklet form, whilst other areas with limited resources have the finished documents on websites so it is only available to download.
Should areas be looking at producing the Compact in a variety of formats such as audio, Braille or easy read? Should it be available in other languages? If they aren’t, does this affect someone’s ability to engage and have their say on the development of their local Compact?
Taking into account Equalities legislation and the Compact principle of ‘an equal and fair society’, perhaps draft Compacts should be available in a wider range of formats before they are finalised and still in the consultation phase.
I have been involved in a couple of lengthy renewal processes in two areas in the North West. In one area, the impact on each protected characteristic was debated to determine whether any part of their local Compact might discriminate unlawfully, directly or indirectly, against particular groups of people.
Perhaps local areas should be making more effort to ensure both the draft versions of their local Compact and the finished document are accessible to all – what do you think?

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