Co-production, which is a new way of thinking about public services and has the potential to deliver a major shift in the way health, education, policing and other services are provided, is gaining ground. The assertion that it will not work with vulnerable groups because members are unable to contribute, has now been challenged with evidence that it is working.
Co-Production redefines the relationship between public service professionals and their clients with a move from dependency to mutuality and reciprocity. Professionals encourage service users to contribute their time, skills and ideas to design, deliver and improve services. Volunteers are valued and rewarded for their contributions.
Evidence is now emerging that vulnerable groups such as those with mental health problems, people with brain injuries and ex-offenders, are becoming involved in taking control of their own service. It has also become clear that things seemed to be going impressively well for them.
Headway helps people with brain injuries to move forward with their lives. There is research showing that self-esteem is a key factor in recovery and by focusing on what they can do, or can learn to do, new avenues are opened up and self-esteem built up. They also have a skill no-one else has, that is dealing with the experience of brain injury.
Keyring enables vulnerable adults to live in communities. A group of 9 live within a 10-15 minute walk from each other, and they are supported by a volunteer who also lives in the locality. As well as contributing to the support of each other, they also contribute to the local community. Research shows a net saving of £1,414 per person compared to alternative support.
These examples show that co-production can create more well-being for people, while at the same time cutting costs.