Co-Production Learning Disabilities & Autism Opinion

Leading through experience: how we partner with individuals for better support

Nicola Forshaw, Lifeways’ Group Services Director

There are many ways to define co-production in the care and support sector.

For example, the Think Local Act Personal national partnership, of which Lifeways is a member, calls co-production a ‘meeting of minds coming together to find shared solutions.’

That’s a great way to put it. But what does co-production look like from the perspective of an individual who receives support?

Thankfully, Josie, an individual we support from Morecambe, authored an informal definition of co-production at Lifeways. It goes like this:

“When I get support, it’s a working-together-and-helping-each-other-thing.”

And in a sense, Josie’s statement shows clearly how important co-production is: to see and produce things not from the perspective of a ‘provider’ – but as a partnership with the individual.

Continual learning

At Lifeways we emphatically believe that everyone has the right to achieve their best possible life outcomes.

And this isn’t just rhetoric. By really listening to people and our front-line support team, we continually learn how best to deliver and develop support that is shaped by their experience, not just ours.


What does listening look like? It starts from the very first day individuals we support move into our services.

Part of co-producing support for each person means empowering each individual with the ability to choose which support team members they wish to work with. And part of our co-produced support involves regular meetings with each individual.

Kyle, who’s 18 years old, says: “If I feel like I’m not best-suited to work with a staff member for any reason, they will make an effort to change it so that I am no longer in that state of affairs.

“This means the service makes available the team members I would rather work with on my one-to-ones.”

Listening to each individual also means encouraging an open, frank atmosphere where everyone feels free to speak their mind.

Kyle adds: “The team are always willing to listen to my suggested ways of improvement and encourage me to tell them where to improve.”

“It always makes me feel listened to like I can talk to them without being judged.”

We believe that the best outcomes are achieved when people we support are involved in making decisions that impact them personally. And we learn so much by listening to each individual’s point of view, daily.

Kyle says: “My support team will ask me how best to support me on the day if I am having a particularly bad day, at all times intending to make progress with me.”

As a user-led organisation, our culture is to work collaboratively with people, because we believe that a co-produced plan means the individual receives better support.

And it’s not just support plans that we co-produce with individuals. We also co-produce our own internal quality inspections, with people we support volunteering to carry out quality checks where they live.

We’re still rolling this scheme out across our 1,500 services – and are planning to have at least one quality checker in each service.

Going the extra mile

As the saying goes, there are no traffic jams on the extra mile.

Yet our dedicated support teams often go far to make sure each individual receives support when needed.

Kyle says: “The support team always listen to me when they have time, which they will always try to make. They will even stay later than their given hours to ensure that I feel better.”

“No matter what they always have my best interest in mind, even if it sometimes becomes more work for them. They always try to make me feel better, which makes me feel safe and happy.”

We’re blown away daily by seeing how our support enables people to live full and meaningful lives as part of their local community.

The enthusiasm, drive and commitment of our well-trained teams, underpinned by strong partnership working with the people we support, means that we are continuously enabling each individual to shape decisions about their lives and future.



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