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

Practice example: Care to Listen

About the project

Five Rivers Child Care logo

Produced by care experienced young people, Care to Listen is a powerful podcast series. We hear first-hand experiences of what it is like to live and work in the care system.

The podcasts were produced by children from Five Rivers (Child Care), a social enterprise which provides specialist, integrated services for young people.

This creative project has the support of the Children’s Commissioner, which will help to support the change needed to address some of the issues faced by society’s most vulnerable people.

What has co-production meant to the project?

In a bid to dispel myths, reduce stigma and support positive change, the podcast series was created and led by members of the Five Rivers’ Youth Council. It was important that they led the agenda. They decided whom to interview, what to ask and, crucially, how to edit the series to ensure key themes and ideas were broadcast.

What has helped in implementing a co-production approach?

Enthusiasm and a willingness to share has helped to implement this co-production approach.

With the support of Five Rivers’ participation champions, a team of five podcasters aged between 11 and 17 were assembled from across the country. The producers were given training in mic and recording skills. They were helped to research questions and develop interview skills.

There was a range of interviewees, all with captivating experiences of living or working in the care system. Whilst their stories were all slightly different, there were stark similarities in their perspective – both when looking back and when presenting solutions.

What are the main strengths in the approach that has been taken?

Since late 2018, the podcast team has been travelling up and down the country to interview influential social work leaders, academics, business people and artists. Every participant shared compelling stories, openly and honestly with our young people.

Some participation projects can tail off after an enthusiastic start. This project has continued to gather momentum. Three more young people have asked to join the podcast team, who we can now train in-house. This project has been run with resounding enthusiasm and the council is eager to do more to harness the perspectives of care-experienced people.

What have been the main outcomes of the project?

Only two participants did not live in the care system - one was the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, and the other was Five Rivers’ Chief Executive and Founder, Pam McConnell.

Pam, founder of the children’s care provider Five Rivers, said the most poignant question was, “Do you believe in showing love to the children in your care?” Pam reflects on this moment and how it reinforced her feelings of commitment:

I was moved when I was asked this question. It’s a difficult question, fraught with potential controversy. For me, it had to be an honest and resounding yes. If we are afraid to show affection and kindness, we are depriving children of the essence of what they need to grow and thrive. How could we think our children deserve anything less? If we are ever to turn children’s lives around, we must take the first step by listening - involving them in decisions about their care and their futures.
I am so proud of this project and I hope it has a lasting impact on the system at large to ensure we can provide the best possible experiences for the children and young people we look after

In a bid to promote the series and engage key people, the podcast series has been featured on the Five Rivers’ website and shared frequently on social media. We invite you all to listen and share the series amongst your networks.

There is a keen enthusiasm to cascade these podcasts with Five Rivers’ staff. It’s crucial we maximise learning opportunities and use these platforms to inform our care and practice. We are an organisation committed to learning and developing. There’s no opportunity more insightful or powerful than hearing first-hand experiences.

Conclusion

Care to listen? has provided a platform to continue a crucial dialogue. A significant number of people have listened to and shared the series, which is a testament to the quality of the project. The young people’s unerring ability to uncover compelling personal stories is crucial in driving improvements in their own care experience and the wider system.

For more information visit the Five Rivers Podcast web page
Soundcloud: Care to Listen? Five Rivers