What is co-production? There are many definitions. For the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE), co-production is about developing more equal partnerships between people who use services, carers and professionals.
The "nothing about us, without us" message is fundamental in the disability movement and at the heart of all co-production work. At the Mental Health Foundation, to partner and co-produce with communities is one of the six principles of all our programmes.
Co-production is about building relationships, involving all stakeholders from the conception to the completion of projects.
Doing things with people (rather than to them) requires cultural, structural and practical commitment within organisations and progress needs to be reviewed regularly. SCIE has developed principles of equality, diversity, access and reciprocity to be used as shared values for putting co-production into action.
For National Co-Production Week 2017, we are making the commitment to continue co-producing all the work we undertake across the life course.
Why co-production is important
Co-production means that projects can deliver what people want and that they are more likely to stay engaged in them - hence they are more likely to feel the benefits. This also leads to economic benefits, as people need to be able to access solutions outside mental health services.
Using co-production to underpin our preventative public health plans in later life means that we will continue to facilitate programmes that are both evidence-based and that people will want to access to improve their quality of life and mental health.
How we co-produce work in later life
I manage the Standing Together project. With funding from the Big Lottery, we are facilitating 20 self-help groups in extra care and retirement housing schemes, to address loneliness and wellbeing. The idea for the Standing Together project came from tenants wanting to join a previous project, which worked only with people with dementia. People who participate in Standing Together groups may have a learning disability, experience poor mental health, memory issues and/or be socially isolated.
We also have tenants as members of the project’s Advisory Group, one of whom lives with dementia and has made an impression on other stakeholders. He was frustrated as the group he attended was not being sustained after the six months of the Mental Health Foundation's staff facilitation and advocated for its continuation. Consequently, someone has been employed to continue the facilitation of that group.
Co-producing our future later life work
We are currently developing a Welsh version of Standing Together. Tenants attended the very first planning meeting with partner organisations and will be involved throughout the application, delivery and evaluation of the project.
A database has been set up of people who are interested in co-producing our later life work. We will be asking people on the list what their priorities are for the future. This information will inform a new advisory group to co-produce and steer the direction of our work.