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Co-production doesn’t have to be a tumbleweed experience
Last year my colleague had an awkward moment at a conference. The event, for managers of care providers large and small, saw this colleague run a presentation on how to improve services. He asked the room of delegates: “Does everyone use the word ‘co-production’.” You know those moments in cowboy films when tumbleweed blows down an empty street? He says he was reminded of that.
So, if you’re like those delegates and you haven’t heard of co-production, or if you’ve heard of it but you want to put the theory into practice, here’s my definition.
What co-production is
It’s about working with people who receive care, and their carers, as consultants when designing, delivering and monitoring services. It joins professional experts with experts-by-experience to produce the best outcomes and experiences for those who receive care and support. User or carer ‘involvement’ used to be about consultation: “This is what we are going to do. What do you think?” Co-production is more: “Let’s sort this out together.” There’s a guide about it on our site.
But if you’re looking to up your game you have to involve the people you support in the design, delivery and evaluation of the things they do. We often question care staff about whether they’re putting the following values into practice: equality, diversity, accessibility and reciprocity. The last one means that if you put something in then you’ll get something out!
However, I have to say that too often people say they have the values; however, when we examine their actual practice in training, in too many cases they’re falling short and finding that they’re working for the people they support rather than working with them. That’s a big distinction.
Not a hotel
Here’s an unusual example because it’s about genuinely involving the people who use services. In Swansea, they're challenging the 'hotel model' of service in dementia care homes. At a care home in the city, staff look at the strengths and contributions of people living with dementia, their families and staff. It sees people who use the service, plus carers and staff, together all achieving a greater sense of security, continuity, belonging, purpose, achievement and significance. There are several other such examples on our site.
What can we do to make sure that this sort of thing is happening all over the country? We have free resources and we run training and consultancy. And last July we conducted our first Co-production Week with a Co-production Festival. It was so successful that we’re repeating it in 2017 from 3 July. We want organisations and people to hold events about co-production and to tell us about them so that we can help promote them.
It’s all about using co-production to improve the experiences and outcomes of people who use services - and their carers. And I’m sure that the delegates at that conference my colleague went to would agree about that 100%.
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