Talking about co-production in Kirklees


By Beve Smith, Dulcie Leach, Tamsin Macdonald and Alex Chaplin.

Kirkless Council

Beve Smith is an ex-midwife, has lived experience as a carer and is a member of the Kirklees Co-production Board. Dulcie Leach is retired from educational services, has lived experience as a carer and is also a member of the Kirklees Co-production Board. Alex Chaplin is a Policy Officer at Kirklees Council. Tamsin Macdonald is manager of Kirklees’ Local Area Coordination Programme.

Tamsin: 2020 was an exciting time because it was when the Council published our Five year Vision for Adult Social Care. Within the vision it says:

‘Our vision is about people as active and equal partners in how we work together to co-produce, co-design, co-deliver and co-evaluate care services in Kirklees’

With some support from The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) we coproduced a plan and decided to try and test and learn through taking a co-productive approach to two projects - Developing an integrated contact centre service for health and care and reviewing our Direct Payments policy. It was through this work Alex and I met Beve and Dulcie and together with many others, we also created a new Coproduction Board.

Dulcie: There was a wide breadth of people when we met at the beginning. We didn’t know each other and some of us were quite hesitant. Through some long conversations, we started to realise that we all had shared stories and experiences. We were wondering if we would be listened to and truly heard. Some people said “we’ve been here before and it didn’t work out”. We had lots of conversations to unpick this at the beginning, questioning if we would ever see the fruits of our labour.

Tamsin: As council officers, some of us also felt hesitant. We didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and we couldn’t predict the timelines. That can be quite a scary space for people to step in to, I think.

Alex: One thing I’m really proud of is that we have come past that now and are starting to see our coproduction journey move into the next phase with the review of the Direct Payments policy. We now have all the documents signed off and we are beginning the work of embedding this new improved version with training and things like that.

Tamsin: We’re all really hopeful that ultimately this will lead to more people across Kirklees receiving a Direct Payment that helps them achieve their vision of a good life, feel more independent and in control.

Dulcie: Some people think that when people get together, they are going to ask for heaven and earth or make unreasonable demands. In the coproduced work that we’ve been involved in, we’ve found that all people really want in terms of their care and support are the things that anyone would want to live a good and normal life. To be a part of community, have friendships and good relationships.

Beve: We know we’re getting it right when it feels like a meeting of equals. We’ve all been kept in the loop all the way through and feel that we have truly participated in the process. We talk about power sharing a lot and this is what it feels like. Moving from a sense that things are being done to us, to a place where we are all moving together in the same direction. We’re starting a movement. It feels like being a part of the change we want to see.

Dulcie: We have lots of things we can be proud of. We might not always agree with each other, but we appreciate what each other’s strengths are and have respect for each other.

Tamsin: It’s about getting there in a steady way where we all feel like we are a part of something. Everyone has something to offer, it is just a matter of working out ways that people can contribute. That’s why it’s so important to get to know each other, learn about each other, and share our gifts with each other.

Beve: It’s not actually as radical as it seems. It is radical in terms of what can be achieved but it’s not as hard as we thought it would be.

Alex: It’s definitely worthwhile doing. It just takes a leap of faith, quite a bit of confidence and most importantly… a lot of time! But what you come out with at the end is really invaluable.

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