Co-Production Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

A move to independence with co-production

By Jackie Taylor , Senior Development Officer, Changing Our Lives

When people think of co-production, they often think of getting disabled people together in groups to co-produce something new or improve a service. In Changing Our Lives co-production is at the heart of all our work. The example we would like to share with you is an example where we weave co-production through our work with individuals to move them out of inpatient units into their own homes. Fundamentally, co-production is about relationships, understanding that we all have assets which when mobilised can create desired change and recognising that people are at their best when they are active participants in their own lives.

This is illustrated perfectly in our work with B. B had been in and out of hospitals for over twenty years, and was in long term segregation when Changing Our Lives got involved. Our first priority was relationship building. In practice, this meant spending time with B getting to know them as a person, rather than purely a list of labels, diagnoses and problem behaviours, and fostering a positive connection with them. Getting out of inpatient units is rarely quick or straightforward so an important part of the relationship was to be someone who consistently reflected the belief that they can and will move out of hospital.

We also spent time talking to the people in B’s life and forging alliances with key players: those who were clear and active allies to B and those with influence and power to make change happen. Further down the line, we worked closely with the identified provider, ensuring that the transition was planned with B’s needs at the centre. A key part of this was facilitating a training day for the new staff team with B’s social worker, previous hospital advocate and B’s Mum.

Part and parcel of working in co-production is being ready to be flexible, creative and responsive to what is in front of you. Working with B often meant picking up a range of tasks to make sure that they moved closer to, and eventually out of hospital. That could mean anything from coordinating visits for B to see their new home and the local area to creating social stories to support B to understand the journey out of hospital.

Having acquired the “complex” label, B was someone who generated a lot of meetings, none of which they were part of in any way. In contrast, we create a space for the person to be an active part of planning their own life by using person centred planning approaches. For B, this meant facilitating small informal workshops, where B was in control: deciding who to invite, what to talk about and the pace of the conversations. This often meant flitting between talking about B’s life and future to watching snippets of favourite police dramas or song. This worked for B, who chose to stay for 2 – 3 hours each time, unheard of at any other meeting. A wealth of information was generated which was used to develop a person centred plan in written and film format.

After many twists and turns and half a lifetime spent in institutions, B has now moved in to their own home with their own staff team and is beginning to live the ordinary life we are all entitled to.


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