Looked after children and mental wellbeing. The role of co-production

Featured article - 05 November 2017
By Chloe from SCIE's expert working group

Head-shot of the author, Chloe from SCIE's expert working group

For me, co-production is about connection between professionals and participants; for everyone involved to learn about the others’ perspective, whilst working together to create something meaningful. I’m not a fan of awkward introduction sessions and ‘ice breaker’ activities, and thankfully there weren’t many of those involved in this project. What brought meaning and encouraged connection in the meetings with the expert working group and the sessions with the young people involved, was the work, and the potential of the good it could do. Some of the conversations that needed to be had were difficult and gruelling, and we weathered this together in various ways.

Throughout the project, I have felt cared for and cared about. I was offered opportunities and guidance, and I have widened my perspective on the system in which I grew up. This is meaningful, but what means the most is that I was treated as an equal, a professional, who has worked hard on understanding my own experiences so that I can better work with others to understand theirs, and to improve these systems which we design to improve our lives - my views were not tokenistic but valuable to the work and in context with the views of many others. The experience has been positive for me at least, and I hope the materials we have produced together can improve some lives by shifting the culture of care services to one of providing care, rather than a service.

Something that I will always remember was the way that my colleagues at SCIE carried out sessions with young people experiencing considerable distress. By offering multiple ways of participating in a discussion, for instance art or photography, the clarity with which we could hear people who cannot usually be heard was quite overwhelming. I was moved, and I encourage more public service providers to work with the people who have first-hand experience of using the services they deliver, and to build in systems which provide a platform for improving practice, led by the voices of service users.

I believe the future of co-production is in the emotional and intellectual connections established between those who deliver and those who receive services - in blurring the lines of profession, and focusing on caring for and understanding one another.

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