In a recent report (Demos, 2010), the ways in which different local authorities were dealing with the difficult decisions they need to make – the need to do “more with less” and have “new ways of working” – were highlighted and discussed.
Though there was no magic formula for undertaking this, there were some common elements to the ways in which some local councils had successfully done this.
The first of these was through coproduction, which is
active input by the people who use services, as well as — or instead of — those who have traditionally provided them. So it contrasts with approaches that treat people as passive recipients of services designed and delivered by someone else. It emphasizes that the people who use services have assets which can help to improve those services, rather than simply needs which must be met. These assets are not usually financial, but rather are the skills, expertise and mutual support that service users can contribute to effective public services.
That is, coproduction is using a service user’s expertise and capabilities in designing, planning and (in some cases) delivering the services they use.
The report gave 3 reasons why coproduction is important in supporting local government to make decisions, as follows:
First, local people using disability and care services are likely to be a valuable source of expertise — coming up with effective and innovative cost saving solutions, and new ways of working based on their experience of using services and drawing from a range of community-based sources. Codesigning services with disabled people themselves can in fact lead to improved outcomes at lower cost.
Second, coproduction is key to more cost-effective solutions that tap into peer support networks and community support. !ere are many excellent examples of disabled people providing their own peer and mutual support services through social enterprises and user-led organisations — capturing the true essence of coproduction. Examples include the Southwark Circle, KeyRing (a mutual living support network for groups of nine people with LD) and Never Watch Alone (which enables football and rugby supporters with a learning disability in Wigan to attend matches alongside their fellow supporters).
Third, by working with disabled groups to make budgetary decisions, [those] affected by [changes] can help decide where to make them. By giving the local population a frank account of budgetary realities, and allowing them to decide[,] people have a sense of buy-in and ownership of even the most difficult budgetary decisions, leading to more public support.
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