Welcome to another carer blog by Matthew McKenzie. You might already know, I am an author raising awareness of unpaid carers. One of the books I wrote touches on the subject of co-production. The book I wrote titled “Experiencing mental health caregiving – unpaid carers” had several chapters regarding co-production.
However, why have unpaid carers be involved in designing health and social care services? Lets first look at the problems and challenges.
Health and social care sometimes do not meet eye to eye with unpaid carers, there are a lot of assumptions made about carers, there are also a lot of biases on the needs of unpaid carers. We can certainly champion the good works of health and social care, but to be realistic there are plenty of problems as well.
- One shoe fits all policy, different carers have different needs
- patient centred to the point of ignoring the carer
- Limited resources means carers just cope
- Co-production on a complex service might put people off being involved in design
- The leader in co-production might still have “I know what is best” attitude, this can also put people of being involved.
- History of bad results damages reputation, so carers feel they have heard it all before.
These are some of the challenges and problems health & social care services will have if they want carers to be involved in co-production.
So we have just touched on the bad news regarding co-production, but there is also good news, there are some solutions that are floating around.
We just cannot rule out co-production even though it has been around a long time. In fact co-production has been around so long, that it might have been watered down. The word “co-produce” can be almost a throw away term to get people excited.Embed from Getty Images
There might be a lot of asumptions made about the uses of co-production. If we want coproduced and co-promoted services, we have to put those involved first. Those services will have to be flexible enough to offer solutions tailored to individual carers. It is not an easy task since those services need to recognise carers as a protected characteristic. Carers are vulnerable and they do need guidence, support and care for themselves. If carers are not valued, then they will struggle in their role providing unpaid care.
Co-production should raise the voices of those involved. This means we avoid the “One shoe fits all policy”. It means better service delivery that benefits as many as possible.
Those involved in inclusive service design need to be skilled, they also need to know there are issues within those services and those carers need to be confident in challenging those issues. This is not easy as health & social care are very complex entities. We have organisations like Healthwatch monitoring and collecting feedback from health services. Some things concerning the running of health & social care services are complex by design. So to expect carers to challenge those services is a tall ask.
Even before including carers in designing a fair health and social care service, carers need to knock on the door to request co-production. To make matters more difficult, not everything is actually co-production, due to time restraints on service delivery, co-production activities may be rushed or brushed aside towards tokenism. It is a big problem, but to be realistic sometimes it cannot always be avoided.
Earlier on in this blog I have mentioned time as a cost, carers can usually use their own expert of experience to express their needs, but transmitting that experience into services will mean carers will have to be trained to champion co-production.
Conclusions and findings
From my 2nd book “Experiencing mental health caregiving – unpaid carers”
I wrote upon the subject of inclusiveness within several chapters, one of them was Chapter 6 – Co-production and involvement.
I asked several questions, this question asked “What do you think co-production means to unpaid carers?”
With the answers provided from unpaid carers, activists and researchers one response was interesting regarding co-production.
“Co-production means that a carer is involved in service improvements, support groups and forums, because their lived experiences can be more valuable than the academic research. Co-production can help a carer to interact with other people in a similar situation to them. The carer can feel valued when their contributions have been used wisely. – Annette Davis – Carer and carer peer activist”
As mentioned earlier there are important keywords e.g. lived experiences, groups and forums, feeling valued and contributions.Embed from Getty Images
For Chapter 30 – Co-producing in health and social care. I touched again on services. I was interested in the challenges as mentioned earlier in this blog
The question asked “What are the challenges of co-production?”
A carer responded with the following.
“Money, I think the challenge is it can cost so much money, you can’t just sort of say to a professional to just go ahead and co-produce things. You’ve got to fit this round everything else and go to a meeting, because you see, these professional meetings are beginning to end. They go through an agenda and with Co-production, you can’t really do that. Not at the early stages. If you are actually coproducing, then you actually have to sit down and think of ways of facilitating and carefully plan coproducing. This requires time and unfortunately time is expensive in terms of the professional’s time. If you want it, you have to pay for it. The people e.g. patients/carers who are co-producing should be paid as well. So we have got a commitment. However, from the professional side, you’ve got to pay for their time as well. Its expensive. – (Ann – Unpaid carer)”
What can we take away from her response?
Inclusive service design will need some form of co-production, but will definately need resources. It is not always about money, it is about time and commitment. Things have to be planned carefully, interest must be kept up for those involved. Co-production can also be expensive, but if done right it does not have to be so costly, but it certainly should value those involved.