Our service in Leeds has been awarded a certificate of appreciation for “true co-production” from EPIC Leeds. We asked Sara Smithson, Chair of EPIC Leeds, to tell us about the award and the importance of co-production:
Each year EPIC Leeds take time out to celebrate successes and say thank you to those who have worked with us to make Leeds a better place for disabled children, young people and their families. We have seen significant changes over the past year with introduction of the special educational needs and disability reforms and roll out of the Independent Support Programme. In these changing times, partnership working and listening to parents is crucial to make sure the benefits of new legal rights become a reality.
Why did you give Scope an award?
Because of them having developed such a fantastic relationship. We like Scope’s enthusiasm to improve the world for disabled children and young people. Scope says ‘yes’ to ideas and new ways of doing things which was evident in development of the Independent Support programme:
- Researching through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and activities with children and young people. Getting their views on what was and wasn’t working in the SEN process and what they’d like to see from the upcoming independent support programme.
- Working with parents, children, young people and frontline professionals to design a service which was meaningful to them and would work in the ‘real world’.
- Having ALL parties round the table to create a Memorandum of Understanding. Sometimes this involves moving meeting dates four times to accommodate everyone’s diaries. Doing this shows the importance placed on representing everyone’s view.
- Creating an atmosphere where all partners can collaborate, discuss and work out a way of making this programme work. And recognising that the expertise is in the room and no single party can achieve this alone.
In your view, what does good co-production look like?
To put it in a nutshell: being equal partners in every aspect from the beginning. Doing things together and not having things ‘decided for’ and done ‘to you’. EPIC created a guide to Effective partnership and consultation (PDF). I would urge every organisation or agency to use it to direct how to work with families with disabled children. It describes ways of creating an ‘us together’ rather than the age old ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach which ticks boxes but doesn’t create meaningful relationships and a real change.
What difference does good co-production make to disabled children, young people and their families?
Ultimately it means a better world for disabled children, young people and their families. Their views, ideas and contributions are included in things that affect them. When co-production is done well, there is no longer a perceived hierarchy of opinion, everyone’s experience, thoughts and insights are valued. Who wouldn’t want to feel valued and listened to?