Learning from the real experts – how residents are adding value and improving services for all
Growing up as autistic and having ADHD, Megan Walker, and her mum, found that council services designed to support them were often difficult to access.
“It became quite frustrating at times,” said Megan, who’s now 24 and lives in Bicester. “There was clearly some really good support available, but we often found it really difficult to access as it wasn’t all in one place.”
Ten years on, Megan is now working with Oxfordshire County Council after volunteering with the neurodiversity support network, to use her experiences to improve access and design services that will best meet her neurodiverse needs – a process known as co-production.
Megan continued: “The council might have lots of data but it’s nice to be able to offer my experiences. I’m more than just a number on a page – I can talk about exactly what experiences I’ve had, what services I’ve been involved with, where things can improve and where things have been really great.”
Co-production offers the opportunity for people with real life experiences to help shape, co-design and develop services by working in partnership with the county council. The aim is to strengthen services and ultimately improve the lives and experiences of those who use them.
For Marc Borja, Oxfordshire County Council’s Co-production Commissioning Officer, Megan offers a unique insight into how services are really landing on the ground.
Marc said: “We work extremely hard to make sure our services are really fit for purpose, by looking at a range of data and working with partners to understand what is needed and where.
“But unless we work with people who are accessing our services – the real experts by experience – we can make the wrong assumptions. We are always happy to work together with the people of Oxfordshire so please get in touch.
“Co-production makes services more effective for the public, more cost effective for the policy makers and more sustainable for us all.”
National co-production week runs from Monday 3 July to Sunday 9 July and celebrates the benefits of co-production, shares good practice and promotes the contribution of people who use services and carers in developing better public services.
Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “It is absolutely vital that we work with and listen to people who use our services, helping us to develop our programmes to provide real benefit for our residents.
“Co-production isn’t just about good engagement, it’s about working hand in hand with people who have real life experience of our programmes, making them better and more meaningful for the communities that use them.
“This co-production week I’d like to thank the residents who work with us, giving their time and dedication, helping to develop our services for those who need them most.”
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