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

Practice example: Birmingham City Council's Adults and Communities Directorate

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About the organisation

The Adults and Communities Directorate at Birmingham City Council has made a commitment to working with people who use services, carers and citizens through co-production. It sees this as a way of working in partnership to understand and agree the things that need to improve and work together to change things for the better.

The council recognises that many people, communities and organisations have valuable skills, knowledge and views that they can contribute. It is committed to working with the public to help make sure that it makes the best use of its resources for those most in need.

Citizen-led quality boards and Making it Real

The directorate has set up two citizen-led quality boards - one covering the work of assessment and support planning services and one for commissioning.

People who use services and carers on these boards work with staff to provide quality assurance based on their experiences and views. They:

This is usually through task and finish groups with wider representation from other people who use services and organisations.

Much of the boards' work is linked to the national Think Local Act Personal 'Making it Real' framework. This sets out what people who use services and carers expect to see and experience if support services are truly personalised. It is helping to check and improve the directorate's progress towards transforming adult social care from the perspective of people who use services and carers.

Co-production in practice

Examples of some of Birmingham's co-produced work include the following:

What do the people involved in the project think about their experience of co-production?

Volunteers who worked on the first opportunities fair said that they wanted things to be done differently the second time it was run. They wanted to be more involved all the way through the planning process for the opportunities fair, not just at the event. They felt ready to be part of lots more decision making and took an active role in deciding the venue, the structure of the day, marketing and defining the role and responsibilities of the volunteers.

Service-user volunteers 'buddied-up' with volunteers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make sure that they had as much support as they wanted to do their work. Feedback from all the volunteers was extremely positive. For example, DWP volunteers felt that they had grown in confidence working alongside volunteers with learning disabilities, in some cases for the first time.

Staff have reported a real sense of commitment to working together and have found co-production very energising. Working alongside new people from different backgrounds and organisations who are passionate about co-production has been refreshing. It has given them the opportunity to look at situations from different perspectives, and work to a shared goal with everybody committed to working on the same task to achieve a positive outcome. This has been welcomed, particularly in the current climate of severe cutbacks in funding, which can sap people's morale and energy.

What has helped in implementing co-production?

What challenges have there been in implementing co-production?

What are the main strengths of co-production?

How has the project worked to engage all sections of the community?

The opportunities fair project reached different sections of the community by:

What advice would the project give to others considering using co-production?


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