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Take the pledge: Putting people at the heart of events

08 July 2021
By Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence

A blog for Co-production Week

I’m often asked to speak at conferences and other speaking engagements and it’s great to be able to put across SCIE’s evidence and research at these events. However, it’s concerning that all too often, people who draw on care and support don’t get as many invites as me and others who work across social care.

People with lived experience are experts-by-experience and who wouldn’t want an expert at an event. Take a quick look at this video from Chair of Think Local Act Personal and SCIE trustee Clenton Farquharson, talking about what’s important to him. If you’ll watch that film you’ll immediately wonder why this sort of message isn’t included in every speaking opportunity.

Image of SCIE CEO Kathryn Smith

This Co-production Week, at SCIE we want to join with a number of others across social care who have made a pledge:

“We support the full and equal contribution at events from people who draw on or access social care and support”.

It’s just strange – and frankly unacceptable – that in 2021 people organise events, commissions, reviews etc. about people who draw on social care and support and still don’t involve them, or involve them only marginally. As Anna Severwright, from Social Care Future, says:

“Thankfully we have progressed; to a place where if a conference on gender inequality had no female speakers, it would be criticised and probably draw protests. Or an event about tackling racism, had only white experts, rightly it would lack all credibility. And yet social care conferences are full of experts and leaders, who usually have never experienced living with the very thing they are talking about. Or we have to beg to be begrudgingly added last minute as the ‘token service user’”.

Anna says that her experience of the last two years of Social Care Future gatherings is that the discussions are different when people who draw on care and support are significantly involved. So, it follows that the exclusion of experts-by-experience promotes the design of policy and practice less likely to represent what people want.

I used an analogy – at an event this week – of building a house. If you were designing and building a home, you would want the full and equal contribution of all of the experts in the project; from the architects to the builders and all in between, including you because you’re going to live in it! The same is true in social care: Design the solution with the people for whom the solution is for; and the outcome is likely to be far more successful.

So, this Co-production Week, we at SCIE pledge to support the full and equal contribution at events from people who draw on or access social care and support. But we also pledge to challenge those putting on events to read this blog and take the same action. It’s a great way forward so that social care and support services see people who draw on them as being central to their very existence and hence their design.

Inclusion in events, debates and forums on social care – our commitment

A number of organisations and groups believe people who draw on social care should be properly included & heard in events, debates and forums which discuss social care and therefore affect their lives & support. We are all working to support people’s inclusion. We therefore commit to:

  • trive to continuously improve meaningful participation in events and forums we organise and run
  • Encourage and support other groups and organisations to make similar efforts, in particular those we are invited to speak or contribute to
  • Work with and support Social Care Future and Think Local Act Personal in the development of practical advice and examples that can assist ourselves & others to properly include people
  • Provide updates on action, developments and progress in 12 months.

We further encourage other group and organisations to make similar commitments.

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