Breaking down barriers with different way of thinking

People who use adult social care in Oxfordshire are having more of an influence over the care and support they receive as the county council through its ‘co-production’ initiative.

To put it simply, co-production is people working together as equals to make best use of our resources and strengths to find ways of doing things that benefit our communities.

This specific programme of work in Oxfordshire’s adult social care directorate first began back in 2017. The aim of it is to encourage closer working relationships with people who receive care and support and their families, and those who deliver care, in equal partnerships and make this the usual way of working both in adult social care and beyond.

The work of the programme was supported and evaluated by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Their evaluation report of the programme was published in July. It said Oxfordshire had made ‘significant progress’ on all the aims of the programme and is a ‘leading council in co-production’.

Sarah Stephenson-Hunter has recently joined Oxfordshire’s Co-production Board, which oversees this work. The Board enables people who use services and carers to sit alongside senior health and social care staff and has built positive relationships between these groups Sarah is the staff disability advisor at University of Oxford and brings excellent knowledge and expertise to the Board.

Sarah has been registered blind since the early 1990’s but lost all her remaining vision in 2011.

 As a relatively new Oxford resident, I’m still exploring all that the city and county has to offer. One unexpected discovery has been the term “co-production” and I can honestly say it’s been a revelation!”

“In my role as Staff Disability Advisor at the University of Oxford, I not only provide confidential support to staff with disabilities and long-term health conditions across the collegiate university, but I am also committed to sharing my knowledge and expertise in the wider community wherever possible.”

“I was approached by the Oxfordshire County Council co-production team and asked to be a member of it’s Team-up Co-production Board after having been a guest speaker at a council event earlier this year.”

Although it seems like a bit of a confusing term, it’s probably something many of us have been doing all along in many walks of life.

“I have to confess I was rather sceptical on what exactly it was I was being asked to do and what exactly “co-production” meant but once I delved deeper I soon realised that it was simply a name for something which I’d already been doing for many years both personally and professionally.” Sarah continued.

The council has been using it to design services on several occasions and is now using it as part of its approach to how it delivers social care to ensure that it makes best use of the resources at hand, while ensuring that everyone that receives care and support is pleased with their experience.

Sarah hadn’t always been impressed with the care and support she had received before getting involved in the programme.

“I have had cause to access support from both statutory and voluntary services and have not always found this to be a positive experience. I have always found it quite incredible that often-such services are developed without listening to the lived experiences of the very people they seek to support, and this is exactly what co-production revolves around”, she noted.

One of the fundamental aspects of the co-production initiative is learning from others and sharing experiences of things that have worked well and those that have not. Individuals are encouraged to share their stories, good or bad, to help the adult social care team to develop the services they provide.

Sarah commented, “not only do you get to hear about some of the fantastic projects that members are involved in across the county but you really do learn that co-production isn’t just some dry academic theory which restricts imagination and creativity but quite the opposite!”

“Although I have only been a member for a short while, I have already found it to be an incredibly empowering, uplifting and inclusive experience.”

“I am also now a co-production champion and even though the coronavirus pandemic has meant I’ve not been able to physically meet any of my fellow board members and champions I can honestly say they feel more like friends than colleagues and I always come away from meetings feeling encouraged and empowered.”

Co-production champions are people involved in doing co-production in a variety of organisations and areas across the county. They meet once a month to support each other and share learning.

Karen Fuller, deputy director of adult social care, said “it’s really important, if we are to provide good care and support, that we listen to people’s desired outcomes and work with them to design services tailored to them. Working together across communities has been more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

You can find out more about the Oxfordshire Co-Production programme at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/community-and-living/our-work-communities/co-production-programme