Co-production from the beginning in Kent: Practice example
In January 2015, the commissioners in Kent County Council invited people with support needs, carers, advocacy providers and commissioners to an event. One hundred people attended and two independent consultants, one with a learning disability, coordinated and facilitated the event: aiming for it to enable equal contributions from participants. Open Space and World Cafe approaches were adopted to discuss ‘Help us understand what advocacy is’ and ‘What important things do we want to say about advocacy in Kent?’ This ‘blank canvas’ approach inspired many but challenged some by its less structured approach.
- A steering group of people with support needs and carers was formed at the event to work with the commissioner to write the specification for advocacy services and define the outcomes.
- The Council awarded the contract on 1 April 2016 to an advocacy provider who sub-contracted with eight other providers to make up Kent Advocacy (hub model).
- Kent Advocacy provides a single point of access and assessment for all advocacy requests in Kent, and undertakes triage and prioritisation of referrals according to urgency, need and geography.
- The service receives referrals from people who historically were excluded from commissioned advocacy services, such as people with sensory impairments.
- A simple referral process, via a dedicated website, alongside other contact routes, makes referral accessible and easy.
- Decisions regarding Kent Advocacy are made collectively by all providers in the network, enabling a supportive environment for problem-solving, and sharing good practice.
- Commissioning continues to be guided by people who use the advocacy services.
- The model is based on people and their advocacy needs but co-production is hard. Enable people to reach you from wherever they are in the stage of their journey.
- Acknowledge the local authority is not the expert: ‘let go’ and trust the expertise of people who use advocacy services.
- Give time to talk, avoid jargon, keep language simple.
- Ask the market, the providers, who have the expertise and work together, not competitively.
- Develop a sustainable model. There is a risk in a hub model of ‘putting all the eggs in one basket’ but this is a managed risk, with regular service review and close working relationship between partners and commissioner.
- Consider how smaller organisations can contribute to the model – the solutions are often out there.
- Working with other local authorities can be challenging, particularly in relation to out-of-area referrals, where commissioning approaches differ. Local authorities naturally prioritise resources to local demand.
See also: Co-producing a new advocacy service in Kent: Getting started, (Think Local Act Personal, 2015)
Read more: Embedding co-production in commissioning