Manchester Area Partnership Right to Control Trailblazer

Co-production in action:

Spotlight on a co-production case study. Tom Raines of the Manchester Area Partnership Right to Control Trailblazer tell us more about what this involves…

Co-production – what have you got to lose?

I am the Programme Manager of the Manchester Area Partnership Right to Control Trailblazer.  Not a snappy title I agree!  However, the aim of the Trailblazer is to extend the remit of Personalisation beyond Adult Social Care. For three years we have been working to embed choice and control for disabled people across care services, housing and employment.  By a happy accident we are now also working with colleagues in Health.

The Trailblazer is funded by the Office for Disability Issues and is being tested in seven areas in England. The Manchester Partnership includes Manchester, Bury, Stockport and Trafford Councils (all neighbours), Job Centre Plus and disabled people’s user-led organisations.
We have achieved much since the project went live including pooled budgets, greater access to employment opportunities and independent housing options.
What is absolutely clear though is that none of this could have been achieved without co-production. From the beginning this was the golden principle of the project. Indeed, when writing the bid we started with a blank sheet of paper and worked with disabled people and their organisations to identify the key objectives. And thank goodness we did because if this work had been led just by professionals we would have missed many key priorities.
Following on from this a ‘Co-design Group’ of disabled people was established with a remit to work as equal partners and to oversee the delivery of the project. Members of the Group worked strategically with directors and senior managers from local authorities as well as supporting user-led organisations and other local disabled people.
One area where co-production provided huge benefits was in the training of staff. To highlight how positive personalised services can be you need to hear from customers themselves. This message is so much more powerful heard from a ‘real’ person rather than just conveyed by another professional or a fictional case study. Remarkably though this is still not the norm for many workforce development programmes, with the result that organisational culture remains stuck in the ‘professional gift’ model.
Co-production led to natural peer-support networks emerging too and more disabled people began to challenge traditional ways of working and to request more innovative packages of support.
While there is still much to be done I feel that our disabled partners in the Right to Control project have demonstrated that co-production will not necessarily take longer or cost more. Indeed, the long-term benefits for our partnership demonstrate reduced costs, improved services and people living more independently. We also have much improved relationships, built on trust and honesty, between customers and professionals.
And as our project begins to wind down I can see the networks between disabled people, professionals and user-led organisations actually grow stronger. The will and determination remains to build on the benefits of co-production and to embed it as both normal and natural element of service delivery.
I would urge any organisation to embrace co-production as model of working.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!