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Co-production – working together every time #coproweek

Co-production has become somewhat of a corporate buzzword of late, skating dangerously close to tokenistic territory. But when applied properly, for the right reasons, co-production is the best way to provide effective support services for the most vulnerable people in our local communities.

Across the country, along with 11 other Big Lottery-funded Fulfilling Lives Programmes we are working to create system change and improve services for people with multiple and complex needs, through co-production.

This week we are all celebrating the third national Co-production Week… #coproweek. Co-production is at the heart of the Fulfilling Lives Programme, ensuring people with lived experience have a real say in the design and delivery of support services.

Co-production Week is a great opportunity to celebrate and promote the benefits of co-production, share good practice, and highlight the contribution of people who use services and carers in the development of better public services.

Here at Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead, we’re promoting the fantastic work that has come out of giving a platform and the control to the people who we support, and who have lived experience of multiple and complex needs.

Our longest-running piece of co-produced work to date is our Respond training package, which is a multi-agency training programme for emergency response services on how to support people with complex needs in high-pressure situations. Our Experts By Experience Network helped co-design this training package along with local service providers such as NTWNHS and the local police. We’re also still massively involved in the training packages, helping to deliver it across the North East and beyond.

“I have only been involved with the Experts By Experience Network for a short time but already my confidence has increased massively; the buzz I get from actually having a voice that is listened to and not just heard is better than anything I have ever experienced in my life.” 
– Thomas, Expert By Experience

Respond started life as a small, local pilot. It’s now received funding to be delivered across the North East of England, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, and has even been presented to HRH the Duke of Cambridge!

As well as our Respond programme, we’ve been working to develop our peer research offer over the past year. We offer training and accredited qualifications to people with lived experience to conduct research into the issues that matter to them, and we’ve opened up this offer to local providers in Newcastle and Gateshead so they can hear from the people who access their services to find out what they’re doing effectively, and what could change to better support people with multiple and complex needs.

One of the areas our peer researchers have been looking into conducted research for Moving On Tyne and Wear, a BBO programme in the region which supports people into employment. Our peer researchers looked under the surface to examine the barriers that people who are in recovery face to accessing employment.

Our peer research programme is co-production at its best. As one of our researchers perfectly sums up: “this is our project, we designed the questions, we’re encouraged to take ownership and are leading the research through our experience.

Our three peer researchers have just completed the fieldwork for their project, where they’ve secured over 100 responses, and all three are about to take up employment with our lead partner Changing Lives for the analysis and write up phase of the project.

“I have found the course has had such a positive impact on me for several reasons, it has allowed me to make new friends, restore my confidence and rediscover some of the skills that you convince yourself you have lost when struggling in recovery.  Moreover the research that we are undertaking has the chance to improve the lives and potentially find some valuable answers for others who find themselves struggling to find access to training or employment which is really rewarding.”
– peer researcher at Fulfilling Lives

We strive to embody the spirit of #coproweek every single day, but we’re not perfect and we’re not doing everything we could be yet. Any organisation can do their small part for #coproweek, to reduce the barriers and stigma faced by people with multiple and complex needs and create a society that is inclusive to all. A simple gesture of including people you currently support in your service in the recruitment process can go a long way. Even if the people you support don’t feel ready to be interviewing candidates, you can show them the job description and see if they feel it describes the kind of person who could help them. Or go one better, and create the job description from scratch with your caseloads.

To us, co-production isn’t just a buzzword to throw into articles and tenders. Co-production means real change.

It means listening to all voices around the table.

It means valuing lived experience and being respectful of different perspectives.

It means co-creating something and educating each other.

It means rebalancing the power structure; enabling people who have ‘walked the walk’ to do some talking.