I got quite excited when my agent told me SCIE wanted me to do a gig for them. Of course, I thought it was going to be Sky TV. And she said something about co-production which really got me interested. Was it going to be HBO? Or AMC ?
It turned out to be the Social Care Institute for Excellence, shorten to S-C-I-E, and pronounced sky. So not quite what I was expecting – and where did co-production fit in?
I’ve done my share of campaigning and flying the flag for disability rights, but I’d never heard of co-production. It turns out that co-production is all about disabled people, along with other service users and carers, having a voice and working with professionals to make health and social care services the best they can be.
What co-production means to me
One of the slogans that sums up co-production is ‘Nothing about us without us.’ This means that if services are being planned for disabled people or others who need different types of support they should be fully and equally involved. Nothing should be decided without the people effected by the decisions having their say.
During SCIE’s Co-production Week in July, all sorts of people and organisations held events; and they blogged, tweeted, and shared experiences – along with making co-production commitments. It’s amazing that so many people across the country were all working to improve life for everybody and to make their voice heard.
I grew up often being talked down to by medical professionals. Even as a teenager, doctors would talk directly to my mum about my needs while I would sit, looking awkwardly at the floor, feeling like a giant gooseberry. My mum always politely urged the person to interact with me instead, so they would turn to me, nervously smiling and nodding, before adopting a slightly forced cheeriness to hide their discomfort.
I used to come away feeling frustrated at not being treated normally, and often anticipated future meetings with dread. These appointments would leave me feeling disempowered and ignored. Because of this, I am passionate about ensuring people of different abilities have their voices heard, especially when it comes to their care needs.
Performing at SCIE’s Co-production festival
I had a great time at SCIE’s Co-production festival in Camden, London in July. The audience were mainly people who use services and carers. From disabled people to people with mental health issues, older people, people with learning difficulties and young people who have been through the care system. It’s not often that I perform in front of such a diverse range of people. And the Question and Answer Session was fantastic because service users were asking me all sorts of challenging and important questions about how we can all play our part in designing, delivering and – yes – boring but important – evaluating services.
Human diversity and equality is a natural part of life, and we should build a society where we not only celebrate difference, but make everyone – no matter what their ability – feel respected and listened to.
SCIE’s co-production resources http://www.scie.org.uk/co-production/