Co-production in social care: What it is and how to do it

Introduction

Co-production is a key concept in the development of public services. It has the potential to make an important contribution to all of the big challenges that face social care services. Co-production can support:

The idea that public services need to work with the people who use services is not new. However, the failure to listen to the voices of people who use services and carers has been a key theme in all the high-profile scandals in health and social care in recent years. Enquires into the abuse and neglect of people who use services, including the Francis report [1], have highlighted the need for providers to develop more equal relationships with people who use services and carers. Co-production provides the concept and the framework to develop these more meaningful relationships.

The Care Act 2014 is one of the first pieces of legislation to specifically include the concept of co-production in its statutory guidance. The guidance defines co-production and suggests that it should be a key part of implementing the Care Act. In particular, co-production should be used to develop preventative, strength-based services, support assessment, shape the local care market and plan information and advice services. Further information on co-production and the Care Act is in the policy context section.

Definitions of exactly what co-production means still vary but it is the term that is gaining common currency as the way to describe working in partnership with people who use services, carers and citizens to improve public services. Its development has been influenced by an intriguing mixture of sources, including:

There is an interest in co-production across the full range of public services, not just social care and health. Public and private sector organisations and politicians from all three major parties have shown an interest in co-production. This interest is partly motivated by the pressure to cut costs but is also indicative of the widespread acknowledgement that the citizen has a vital role in achieving positive outcomes from public services.

Implementing co-production is challenging and complex. It involves looking at every aspect of how an organisation works. This resource draws on the learning from a wide range of sources to help managers, practitioners, people who use services and carers to both understand and implement co-production in social care and beyond.

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