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I hear a lot these days about co-production; there is a bit of an office-based buzz around the idea that social care should be a true cooperation between those who deliver it and those who receive it. Its not just token service user involvement, either. It’s about a world where the decisions, plans and choices are jointly taken. People who use services are full partners in the process, from deciding on where, how and by whom care is provided; how much it costs and how it is funded; the way those involved are recruited, selected and trained.
Don’t we do this already?
Different variants of co-production exist in social care today; in fact, you probably feel that your current service does address the need to involve service users to some degree. We have been careful to include service users in decisions about their care for many years. However, there is a difference between co-production and participation: participation means being consulted while co-production means being equal partners and co-creators.
Crucially, there are some key features that have been used to describe true co-production in action. One of these is to define people who use services as assets with skills. By this, we look at the client as part of the team and encourage their on going involvement in decision making. We accept them as an expert in the world of social care from the recipient’s point of view.
Another feature is that co-production breaks down the barriers between people who use services and professionals. This might be by having management teams that comprise staff and clients, with equal rights and responsibilities. It can enable organisations to move from the role of pure service providers into true agents for change. An example might be enabling service users to be part of interview panels, not just to offer opinions, but to fully participate in the choice of recruit.
Does this make you nervous?
Now, this could be good in theory but pretty daunting in practice, as it opens the way for a power shift between provider and user. If we were to move toward a co-produced service, what would happen if the people we support decided they wanted to do things very differently? Would this be hugely risky? After all, the service users are vulnerable and we have a duty of care.
In co-produced services, the idea is that power is moved away from managers and over to service users and frontline staff, as they are better placed to understand what is important and how to make sure the care remains relevant and appropriate. One environment where this could work well is small-scale supported living , as the tenant is supported to exercise their rights, the staff are guests in their home and decisions are much more about the individual’s day to day life than the overall service.
The idea is one that is being explored, developed and discussed in July of this year, as the Social Care Institute for Excellence holds the first ever National Co-Production Week. This plans a series of events, training and awareness-raising for interested parties. If you are one of these, then find out more here;
It would be interesting to see how this goes.