A consumer representative is a person who voices the consumer perspective and takes part in the decision-making process on behalf of consumers. They can also be called consumer advocates or community representatives. Consumer representatives are usually either appointed as a representative of a consumer organisation or as an individual who can provide a perspective based on their personal experiences and knowledge.
It is important that both the organisation and the person with a disability have an understanding of the role of the consumer representative.
What is the role?
“The role of a consumer representative is to provide a consumer perspective which often differs from a bureaucratic, service provider, industry, academic or professional perspective.”
The Consumer Health Forum of Australia
The role of the consumer representative includes:
- presenting the consumer perspective (how consumers think and feel);
- contributing consumer experiences;
- ensuring consumer concerns are recognised and addressed;
- providing feedback to the committee on issues affecting consumers;
- ensuring accountability to consumers;
- reporting committee activities to consumers (if appropriate).
Source: Health Issues Centre, 2014, Getting Involved: Information for consumers working on health services committees
Who am I representing?
“I don’t really know what my role is on the [disability advisory council] all I know is they put me, they say I am representing [a state] but I don’t know it myself. I haven’t really got roles. That’s where I don’t know and I don’t really know who to report back to. Nobody bothered to tell me what my role was.”
Participation in Government Disability Advisory Bodies in Australia: An Intellectual Disability perspective. Patsie Frawley
When engaging consumer representatives with cognitive disabilities, it is helpful to clearly define who you want them to represent. Examples of different constituencies consumers can represent include:
- people with an intellectual disability;
- people with an Acquired Brain Injury;
- women, people living in rural areas; service users, etc.;
- as an individual voicing their personal opinions;
- as a group representative providing the opinion of the group, e.g. self advocacy group, support group, disabled person’s organisations, etc.