A new survey from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) looks at how co-production is perceived in the UK today. Co-production is about working in equal partnership with people using services, carers, families and citizens. According to SCIE, co-production offers the chance to transform social care and health provision to a model that offers people real choice and control.
The survey, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, explores how the term co-production is defined by staff in the adult social care workforce and service users; looks at individual experiences and the lessons learnt from working in a co-productive way; and examines a potential lack of cohesion between various levels of the workforce hierarchy and people who draw on services. It comes at the start of the eighth annual National Co-production Week, organised by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).
The survey reveals that 72% of the workforce and 56% of people with lived experience have heard about co-production. The results also reveal that leaders and managers have different views and experiences of co-production, compared to those on the frontline. Managers with the least exposure to frontline working appear to have a much better knowledge of co-production than those working in direct care delivery. A third of workers state that the organisational culture of their place of work can be a barrier to successful co-production.
The survey has found that 59% of people with lived experience report having had opportunities to be involved in co-producing their own care and support, whilst only 37% have been involved in co-producing services or policies. Many respondents – both in the workforce and those who draw on services – spoke of a sense of distrust and disillusionment with co-production, saying it can become diluted and lose its meaning. Key barriers experienced by social care staff, when implementing co-production, are time (reported by 47%), organisational culture (31%), cost (26%) and communication (25%). However, results suggest that when workers in the public sector have good opportunities for partnerships with people with lived experiences, then co-production is more likely to happen.
One respondent responded to the survey by saying: “At the moment people can throw the word [co-production] around without any real meaning”.
Findings from the survey include:
- 72% of staff working in adult social care reported previous familiarity with the term ‘co-production’, whilst this figure stood at 56% of individuals with lived experience
- It was found that senior leaders with the least exposure to frontline working had a much better knowledge of co-production (95% familiarity) than those working in direct care delivery (41%) at the time of taking the survey
- 59% of people with lived experience reported previous opportunities to be involved in co-producing their own care and support, whilst only 37% had been involved in co-producing services or policies
- Respondents voiced issues regarding the inclusiveness and representativeness of co-production, describing instances where we are not reaching out to all, and extending participation beyond the ‘familiar voices’.
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, says:
Co-production is a fundamental part of modern day social care and support and this survey is a fantastic opportunity to see what’s going on in the sector; both with the workforce and with people who draw on services. It is very encouraging that so many people working in adult social care know about co-production and why it is important. The challenge now is to see its impact more on the frontline and I hope that the recommendations in the survey report can be acted on quickly, so that people who draw on care and support services are put at the heart of the decisions made about their lives. Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who completed the survey and who gave us such rich data on co-production in the UK in 2023.
Following analysis of the data and working in partnership with people who draw on services, a number of calls-to-action have been drafted, to see co-production more securely embedded in care services.
Recommendations following the survey include:
- It is crucial that sufficient resources are allocated towards co-production, ensuring staff have protected time to carry this out. Investment in such areas will equip staff working in adult social care with the necessary tools and resources to engage in co-production effectively and meaningfully, and ensure services are fit for purpose.
- There is a need to prioritise comprehensive training and education for every staff member working in adult social care, empowering them with the knowledge of co-production, what it is and how to apply it across diverse roles in the sector.
- To avoid instances of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, a consistent definition of co-production needs to be shared widely, with practical examples that bring the skills, values, and behaviours of co-production to life.