Katie-Rose's blog

Co-production- What’s missing??

Co-production is a collaborative approach where professionals and individuals with lived experience work together on equal terms to design and deliver services. The approach can only be effective when both parties have an equal power dynamic and an equal drive to influence change. Individuals with lived experience are driven by a profound passion to affect change in the health and social care system, bring a unique perspective that is often overlooked. Their empowerment and active participation are the lifeblood of co-production, without which it cannot exist.

However, what is essential is to make these individuals feel valued?

 A growing number of organisations, local authorities and  Integrated Care Boards have implemented a 'policy of payment', 'payment for involvement' or similar and can be commended for doing so as this is a straightforward way of showing that they truly do appreciate the time, effort, wisdom that is provided as well as acknowledging that there are other activities that an individual with lived experience may have given up to support work towards service transformation. Typically, these policies encourage individuals to claim financial payment for meeting time. However, payment must also be provided for any time spent preparing for meetings, such as reading relevant papers, travelling to and from meetings, and preparing minutes or agendas.

All expenses should be covered, including internet costs (this may be a one-off payment) if meetings are to be online (or the individual chooses to join online rather than face-to-face). While the focus tends to be around payment in the form of 'money thought should be given to thinking outside the typical box that human resources departments use as a default.

 Payments in money and vouchers count towards income (except expenses), some individuals may choose not to take up the payment offer and offer their valuable input for free. It may also mean that individuals are put off getting involved due to fear of having to receive an income and the repercussions that come due to being on benefits.

A different approach needs to be in place when ensuring lived experience involvement. Those with lived experience need to be encouraged to engage with everyone without fear of repercussions or confusion around income, and they can be reimbursed in a way that can meet their needs most appropriately.

 Organisations could implement a 'Policy of value' or include the principles within their current payment policies to best address this. While the focus is typically on payment in the form of 'money', thinking should be given to thinking outside the parameters. Each person is an individual; therefore, what suits one person may not suit another. The conversation to determine what remuneration looks like to everyone is significant and shows how much you value the person and their wants and needs. As previously mentioned, vouchers may work for some people and choices for where these can be used should be offered, such as general high street vouchers and food stores such as Asda or Tesco. Both options count as income. Another option that would not affect the individual income would be the amount that can be given as payment which is donated to a chosen charity in the individuals name.

The lack of resources and funds within health and social care is well known. This is especially true within the voluntary sector; for example, they need to engage with individuals with lived experience as much as anywhere else; however, the ability to reimburse financially, whether directly or indirectly, may only sometimes be possible. An alternative could be looking at the options you could offer the individuals as a mark of value, such as, access to a community class for free/reduced cost, funding towards a course or training opportunity they wish to undertake; it may also be maximising the pool of staff you have to enable the individual to have an experience they want to such as someone who has a passion for art and a member of staff having skills as an artist would be a way of recognising the value that the individual with lived experience is providing. This option could be made available as an alternative to receiving financial payment for an individual.

The key point is to engage in conversations with the individual. They have unique insights and know what would benefit them the most. Even though you will be compensating the individual with lived experience, it is essential to remember that your efforts would be significantly diminished without them. The flexibility of the compensation options ensures that everyone’s needs and preferences are considered, fostering a sense of inclusion and respect. By valuing and accommodating their preferences, you are recognising their unique contributions and creating an environment that encourages their continued participation.

I am not suggesting rolling out the red carpet for them, but it's crucial to recognise the time, energy, and skills they bring to the table. Ask yourself: Would I be here if I was not getting paid? I hope you would be so invested in the subject of change and co-production that you would say yes, but…..