Putting people at the heart of everything we do is one of our key values, and this means ensuring the voices of the people we support are heard, are given the opportunities to direct their own care and support, and are equal partners in the decision making processes that will have a direct impact on the support they receive, and in turn the life they lead.
This is why we are embedding co-production throughout our organisation.
What is co-production?
Co-production essentially recognises that everyone has a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that, when shared, can ultimately improve ways of working, ensure that users of services have the opportunity to contribute to decision making processes and practices, and makes sure that users of services are equal partners with those who provide services. The people we support who use our services are best placed to determine how they are run, so it seems logical that they would make significant contributions.
It means that those who use services must be involved at every step of the way, from preliminary discussions, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
But co-production doesn’t just benefit those who receive support. We know that it is more cost-effective and needs fewer resources to manage in the long run, maintaining sustainability. It is also cited in legislation via the Care Act, so a win-win for all.
But co-production isn’t new – it’s something that organisations, including ourselves, have been practising for a while, albeit intermittently.
Our personalisation standards and personalisation audit were co-produced with people we support back in 2015, and our professional boundaries policy was co-produced by people we support who recognised a gap in our policies. It was led by people we support, who turned the status quo on its head, and instead consulted staff members and professionals instead of it being the other way around.
Our next job collectively in the social care sector is to ensure that it is embedded within every nook and cranny of our organisations, and is automatically practised.
What are other people in the sector doing?
Thankfully, there are organisations and networks across the country who exist with the aim of doing just that.
The Co-production Network Wales is just one organisation that is doing some fantastic work around co-production.
The network will help members share their time, skills, experiences and resources with each other. It will share information, organise events, offer training, and work to change policy and practices so that members can make progress with the things that matter to them.
They will also create a searchable online directory; a co-production catalogue. This will map good examples of co-production in action in Wales and will, I’m sure, be an extremely valuable source of information for organisations like ourselves who not only want to learn from others, but also shout about the exciting things we have done in the field of co-production, so that it can help others.
What are we doing now?
We have signed up to the Co-production Network for Wales and their Principles of Co-production.
To continue the good work that led to the creation of our personalisation standards, personalisation audit and professional boundaries policy, we are setting up a new co-production working group. This will be made up of people we support, family members, staff members, professionals and independent advocates. We will then officially launch the group at a one day co-production conference.
It is the Social Care for Excellence’s co-production week from the 3rd to the 7th of July, and we will be making our own co-production commitment to mark it.
We want to move away from involvement, whereby people we support are merely consulted about something after the majority of the work has been done. We want people we support involved from start to finish. This is something we have begun to do, but admittedly we need to do more, as do all of those in the social care sector. That is why we are now in the process of setting up our own co-production working group. Members will include people we support, senior staff, support staff, family members and carers, representatives and advocates, and external professionals.
We will launch our work with a mini co-production conference, led by an independent facilitator to ensure every single voice is heard and each given equal weighting. Every person in attendance will be able to play a decisive role in the group.
We want a society where people with disabilities have full control over their lives, and this can only be done by ensuring that those of us in perhaps more privileged positions support people with disabilities to carve their own positions in the world and ensure that they have access to platforms where their voices can truly be heard.