The RCT Learning Disability Transformation Programme is a project within Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. It is aimed at changing and improving the way learning disability and autism services are designed and delivered within the county.
The project has a Project Board with representatives from all key local stakeholders, which is led by a learning-disabled person. The Board oversees the work of the various workstreams within the project, one of which is solely focussed on ensuring co-production is embedded throughout the project. The workstreams all have representation from various council departments, third sector organisations, private sector organisations, interest groups and people with lived experience.
What has co-production meant to the project?
Co-production has been a central part of the project from the start and it has significantly shaped how things are done. As Council officers, staff have been able to access tools and techniques to enable them to involve people in their work, and we have been able to take on board and act on a wider range of views and opinions. For example, the project developed a co-produced model for gathering and analysing engagement data, using a multi-stakeholder ‘task and finish’ group to draw out key themes from the data gathered and to produce a report, using video and other methods to communicate the findings.
What has helped in implementing a co-production approach?
Building trust has been a crucial part of making co-production happen. Having the support of a wide range of groups and people has provided different insights and brought about changes to how things have been done before. We realised quickly that sufficient time was absolutely crucial to ensuring everyone felt able to take part – time to discuss, time to analyse, time to present. Having buy-in for co-production from the very top, such as the Project Board and the Director of Social Services, has also been important for allowing different ways of working.
All workstreams within the project must complete a co-production checklist at the start of any new venture. This has helped in putting co-production at the centre of the project agenda at all levels.
What difficulties were there in implementing co-production?
Finding a shared vision and purpose was difficult at the start, and making sure everyone understood the full remit of the project and the various areas the project might affect. As with most change, things happened gradually and sometimes we didn’t get it right, but we listened to everyone’s voices and tried to improve at the next opportunity.
What have been the main outcomes of the project?
The transformation agenda is still ongoing, and will be for several years yet. However, we have set the standard for how social care can ensure people have an equal say in the design, delivery, implementation and improvement of public services, and have shown that it’s possible to achieve true co-production within a large and multi-faceted project.
How has the project worked to engage all sections of the community?
We have encouraged co-production at all levels of the project, from strategic Board level to open processes for allowing local people to suggest ideas or solutions in the same way as a Council officer might. This has meant people can take part through a group they belong to, through their employer or as an individual, always choosing which parts and how much to do.
We have used methods like face-to-face interaction, video storytelling, Zoom meetings and roadshows, Easy Read versions, assistive technology and Welsh translations to reach as many people as possible, no matter what their personal circumstances might be. We also established a new group separate from the other interest groups within the borough, called RCT Transformers, which is solely linked to informing the direction of the project. This has ensured people with lived experience have a clear pathway to take part and that voices can be heard that might not necessarily currently belong to an interest group.
What advice would the project give to others?
We would suggest starting the co-production early, maybe even before the project is set up. Bringing people along at the outset was crucial in establishing relationships and building trust. We would also suggest allowing time for co-production to happen properly – this will require planning, but also perhaps a willingness to push deadlines back. Persistence will also be required, especially with a project of this magnitude. At some points it will feel like nothing is happening, and keeping people interested during those phases can be a challenge.
Related project resources
Let’s Talk My Day, My Way: A website containing lots of information about the data gathering exercise to understand people’s lives, wishes and needs.