Children & Young People Co-Production Learn Learning Disabilities & Autism

The road to co-production: Where family matters at every Avenue

Mum and her daughters Tori and Emily

Doing things together has always been integral to the way Avenues, a social care charity supporting autistic people and people with learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries, works. Listening to the views and opinions of people supported and their families and friends is fundamental to good support. Indeed, co-production is a pivotal part of the charity’s five-year strategy, launched in 2021 and significantly titled ‘Building better lives together’. In 2022 a period of renewed investment and awareness in co-production began across the organisation.

With a new Manager of Co-Production at the helm, among the changes were the formation of local engagement groups for the people we support and, in that year, the creation of the Family Matters group.

The aim of the Family Matters Group is to provide a real voice for families, carers and friends in the work that Avenues does, so their perspective is included in everything we do. The group consists of ‘family members’ and senior members of Avenues staff, including the Chief Executive. They meet every three months.

Mandy Mullett is the mother of two young women supported by Avenues. The Family Matters group gives her and her husband a chance to pass on valuable knowledge to the Avenues team and others:

“As parents we wanted to continue to be involved in the lives of our daughters, and as we have a lot of ‘lived experience’, we wanted to have the opportunity to share this experience with other families who found themselves in the same situation as us. We know that thinking about a family members’ future can bring heartache and anxiety,” says Mandy.

In 2023 the Family Charter was co-produced with members of the group, setting out Avenues’ commitment to families as well as expectations of them. Other

projects include liaising with the recruitment team to write new interview questions for support workers.

“Family Matters gives us the opportunity to be engaged from the start in decision making, and provides a platform to have the voices, opinions and thoughts of families heard” says Mandy.

For Mandy and others like Chris Howell, whose family member is also supported by Avenues, having senior decision makers from Avenues meet together with family is hugely beneficial:

“I want to understand and support the people Avenues cares for, to listen to their opinions and ideas and help them to achieve change. Having people attend this group from different areas of Avenues brings different ideas and opinions to the group which is great,” says Chris.

The group also gives the family members an added awareness of the pressures of working in social care:

“Being a part of the Family Matters group has helped me to get to know the Avenues senior staff and to understand just how hard they work. They all have the same high expectations we as families have. As an organisation, they genuinely care about the people they support,” says Mandy.

There is no doubt about the transformative effects of working together:

“Co-Production is so important in social care; it’s not just a set of principles but changing how care is delivered. It’s about everyone working together, those who deliver care, and those who receive it. It proves that everyone’s ideas and experiences matter.” says Mandy.

It’s something echoed by Chris:

“l feel very privileged to be part of this group and to have the opportunity to help people supported by Avenues to live their lives to the full,” says Chris.

Co-Production Manager Cressida Rapela is looking forward to the future: “I’m really excited. It’s really great to see everyone in a meeting together, people we support, families and others in the organisation. Sometimes there’s no filter, which is great because we really get to know what everyone thinks. It’s brilliant.”

If you would like to find out more about Avenues’ Family Matters group please see



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