Human Services to run plain English training for key staff

By Stephen Easton

Friday November 30, 2018

The Department of Human Services is planning to provide 200 staff per year with “plain English” training.

After adopting a plain English policy in August, initially for public information, DHS is now moving to apply it internally.

It is assembling a new panel of training providers that can run courses for senior executives and mid-level communications officers in how to write with clarity in all situations, whether the readers are clients, other public officials, contractors, ministers, politicians or lawyers.

According to an approach to market that went up on AusTender today, selected Human Services staff will receive training in using plain English in “the context of government” as well as “online environments” and specialist areas like legal and procurement documents, parliamentary papers, and information for people with special needs.

On the shopping list is a short course for senior executives, “covering material at a higher level and focussing on the benefits and objectives of writing in plain English” and “one or more detailed courses for staff that have a content development role as part of their job”.

“Tenderers should note that this Tender is not for basic training in written communication. Staff undertaking plain English training will have content development as a key part of their role and will already be competent writers. It’s expected that most participants will be at the APS6 to EL2 level.”

Improving the clarity of writing was a key goal of the team behind a relatively new version of the DHS website, which went live last September, becoming the first federal “digital transformation” project to move out of the beta phase.

The site, which receives a staggering amount of traffic from people trying to understand the Medicare system and rules around federal support payments, recently became the first recipient of the Plain English Foundation’s gold standard after scoring 88 out of 100 on 13 criteria.

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