Certainly, these first few days (and weeks) of lockdown will doubtless see everyone concentrating on much more important things. But there will come a time (probably in a week or so) when lockdown is ‘state normal’, and we’ll all be at a stage where we actually feel that, in some way, ‘ordinary life’ has to carry on in whatever ways we adapt to. There are, arguably, three certainties: 1) for an unspecified period, the nation will be on lockdown and ‘normal’ activity will not be possible; 2) over time things may change; it’s unlikely that it’ll be at a point in time – there will probably be a lengthy transition period of stops and starts (up to a year or two), or even one in which we adjust to a new ‘normal’; 3) we cannot simply say ‘well, that’s it forever, then’ and halt everything. We may not be consulting today, but, at some point in the mid-term, we’ll need to start again in some form or another.
These are extraordinary times and people should appreciate that the schedules we intended to keep will be disrupted. If you want to continue with a consultation and delay a decision, explain to people why the delay will be so long. Just saying ‘due to Covid 19’ might not be convincing, a little more explanation would be best. If you have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on your Website for the consultation, adding a FAQ section to cover this, and putting top of the list would be advisable. Further, if you have a good understanding of the profiles of people who have been responding, the Equality questionnaire responses should help in this, you might also put an information update out through bodies, charities and organisations that meet those profiles. Likewise, social media channels.
Remember to make clear you’ll continue to take responses until the closing date.