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What are consultations – and why are they so important?

We recently published Parent Zone’s response to the government’s consultation on the draft Online Safety Bill. 

The draft Bill, which aims to establish new regulations to tackle harmful content online, is currently being considered by a Joint Committee – a committee made up of Members of Parliament and of the House of Lords. 

As part of the Committee’s scrutiny process, it called for responses to the draft Bill from organisations and individuals. You can read our full response here, and our founder and CEO Vicki Shotbolt’s blog on why we responded the way we did, here

These consultations are an important step on the road to bringing in new legislation – but why are they so significant? And why is it so vital that organisations like Parent Zone get involved? 

What are consultations?

Legislation goes through an extensive development and drafting process before it becomes law. It can take years, and have many stages. 

Consultations are key points in that process where significant changes can be made, as organisations and individuals review and provide feedback on draft Bills. 

The Online Safety Bill has been a long time coming – but we’ve followed it closely every step of the way. We previously responded to the Online Harms White Paper in July 2019, and the government’s subsequent review in December 2020.

Why are consultations important?

The Online Safety Bill has the potential to make the internet a better place – for all of us. That’s why it’s so important to take part in consultations like this one. 

Legislative and policy developments can seem dry and abstract – but the eventual laws will affect us all. They set the conditions in which we live –  so it’s vital that policymakers understand the real-world implications across the breadth and depth of society, and that everyone has an opportunity to make their voices heard.

If not, the government risks bringing in legislation that people don’t trust or believe in – or that simply doesn’t work for everyone it needs to. 

Why does Parent Zone respond to them?

Parents are a group that is often overlooked, yet who have the most significant impact on outcomes for children. By taking part in these consultations, we help ensure the priorities, needs and concerns of parents are considered. 

Through our projects, partnerships, products and research we have unparalleled access to and understanding of parents’ views – and it is only by listening to parents that this Bill can ensure a better online future for families. 

What happens next?

At the end of the consultation period, all responses will be read, reviewed and fed back to the Committee. This is an opportunity for government to identify any issues people have with the current Bill, or anything that is currently missing – as well as see what parts people support and agree with. 

The Committee may then invite certain organisations or individuals to give verbal evidence: inviting them to explain the potential impact, explore objections and discuss issues in more detail. Following this, the Bill may go through further drafting.

Once it has become law, the government has committed to reviewing the Bill at least every two years.

We will continue to closely monitor the progress of the Bill to make sure families’ needs are kept at the heart of its development.