The Children and Families Bill, currently working its way through parliament is very big on practitioners in education, health and social care working in partnership with parents - or "co-production".
Now, this is clearly a fine goal, but it is going to require a shift in attitudes on all sides and an extensive programme of re-training in some quarters as well. For some, it will be easier than for others and there are already examples of great practice that need to be identified and held up as examples for others to learn from.
If you search the web, you will find several parent views on co-production but we thought it would be useful to get the views from a practitioner (we used to call them professionals, but then, what does that make us?) about the challenges, issues and positives of co-production.
Phil Brayshaw is a registered nurse for people with learning disabilities and has post-graduate qualifications in child mental health and family therapy. He has worked in health and social care for over twenty years and until recently, was the lead commissioner for disabled children and young people for NHS Calderdale. Phil also led Calderdale's SEND Pathfinder work before moving to NHS England in April 2013.
We thought he was an ideal person to ask about co-production from the 'other side'.
I was really chuffed to be invited to write about working alongside parents from a practitioner's perspective. As an NHS employee however, I've been asked to say that my 'top tips' reflect my own views and not necessarily those of either NHS England or NHS Calderdale.
Writing a guest post is new to me, as co-production is to so many of us, and I had a few false starts but I persevered - and that is the key to trying anything new. So, here are my 'top five' points to remember.
If you have any questions, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.
1. Don’t be afraid to try new things and if they are tough…KEEP GOING!
Co-production is about more than not doing the same things that we have always done, but doing new things together. It’s about talking to each other and working together to find brand new ways of doing things. Doing things differently can be tough, but don’t give up – after all it is better to write a dozen opening lines than none at all.
2. Be clear about what you want or what you want to achieve
Having meaningful conversations is so much easier if we are all talking about the same thing. People often talk about shared goals and ASPIRATIONS, but these are not always easy to agree on or describe. My advice is to always start with the end in sight. You could try asking, “What would success look like?” In Calderdale, we found the best answers to this question come from children and young people themselves.
3) Get a sense of what other people need to ACHIEVE and help them achieve it.
Shared aspirations and goals are essential to co-production. There is little point in working together if we are not all heading in the same direction. That said there are often a number of different priorities for families, communities and the various organisations. It can be useful to understand what other people need to achieve, within their families or professional roles. Helping someone to achieve their objectives often frees up some of their time to help you meet yours.
4) Learn to TRUST - be open and honest.
If we are going to work together we need to learn to trust each other. In my experience people generally want what is best for children and young people. Believe it or not professionals don’t come to work just to make your lives more difficult [honestly] and parents aren’t unreasonable and difficult on purpose! There is no question that the current system is adversarial and there is little wonder that we are all a little suspicious of each other. Trust will take some time and effort.
5) Ask for help (and act on advice)
It is okay not to know all of the answers and it is equally okay to ask for help. We are all very LUCKY to have such a wealth of experience around us - in families, communities and services - we need to get much better at using it; And whether you are in a family, community or a service, it is important to remember - it isn’t always the professionals that have all the answers or solutions.
So, SNJ friends, would you like to hear more from Phil? What would you like him to write about? We would love to hear your thoughts on this post. As Phil said, he is happy to respond to any comments and questions below.