Working together to make things better
Recently we Community Catalysts have been working in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of folks and organisations. Lots of different aims but all of them linked to people with personal experience of care or support services and drawing on that experience to improve the way things are done. Sometimes this is about connecting people, sometimes it’s about collaboration, sometimes it’s about coproduction (though like many people we aren’t a big fan of that jargony descriptor!). Sometimes it’s about all three and more. Examples include work with regional care home charity Borough Care to hear the voice of residents and families; with Social Care Future to find ways for people’s voice to be heard at conferences and events; with areas like Merton and Bolton, to plan different approaches to daytime support and with our current work with Medequip and MacIntyre. With the help of the people involved, we have captured some of these great stories or reflections on this type of work, it’s mess…and joy…and IMPACT.
Equipment, coproduction and living great lives
Over the last few months Community Catalysts has been working with large, national equipment provider Medequip to help them develop approaches to coproduction, customer feedback and community delivery. Work started with the development of a coproduction group made up of people with personal experience of using equipment and aids. Isaac Samuels, a member of the group and freelance coproduction adviser, speaks here about the key role equipment has played in his life and the work to date with Medequip from his perspective:
As someone who has drawn on care support for over 20 years, I feel strongly that disabled people’s voices are central to good service design…
…When things have gone wrong it has been apparent to me that it’s because we haven’t been at the table or driving the conversation.
Often services do not understand the unique needs of individuals and/or services are commissioned based on assumptions or a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Equipment has played a large part in me being able to live an independent life. It’s enabled me to stay at home doing the things that I love to do. However, this hasn’t been without its challenges as often people have made decisions about equipment that haven’t included me and the equipment has, at times, made my home feel like an institution. I’m passionate about advocating for people with care and support needs being as independent as possible and know some of us need additional equipment to enable this to happen.
Recently it was a delight to be able to share my lived experience of the contribution equipment has made to my life. Not only helping me to be an active member of my community and living in the place that I want to but also enabling me to be less reliant on other people and maintain my independence whilst receiving really good care and support from my PA…
Collaboration, community and coproduction firmly at the heart
Community Catalysts has a strong partnership with national charity Macintyre and we share many of the same values and aspirations. Over the last few years, we have been working with them to design and implement a new approach which has come to be known as Great Communities. Great Communities lead Kathryn Yates and her colleague Michelle Wilkinson talk below about exciting developments in Chesterfield which have people, collaboration, community and coproduction firmly at their heart:
MacIntyre’s groundbreaking Great Communities Project in Warrington has brought together local people and helped them to work together. It has shown clearly that MacIntyre, a charity with a focus on people with a learning disability and/or autism, is much more than a ‘provider’ organisation. Great Communities has generated a huge amount of learning and a strong set of principles. The principles are:
- Connected not cut off
- Together not apart
- Citizen not service user
- Contributor not just recipient
Recently we decided to try and see if the Great Communities way of working and principles would work in another area.
So for the last 6 weeks, we have been testing out the principles in Chesterfield trying, as an organisation, to be a catalyst for positive, local action. MacIntyre already has a presence in Chesterfield, based in a local building we call a learning centre. We bring people together in the learning centre and support them to spend time together, in a safe space and do different fun, creative activities.
At the centre, we have always put people first – but the pandemic made us reflect on and question our practice. We realised that we had learned a lot in lockdown and with Covid restrictions ending we didn’t just want to go back to the old ways of working. As we discussed this, MacIntyre staff locally said things like “no one knows we are here.”
Together as a team, we decided we wanted to look outwards and bring people together. We decided we wanted to do more than ‘provide a commissioned service’ – to play a real part in the local community, and help the people we are commissioned to support to do the same. After talking to people we realised our neighbours and neighbourhoods have the potential to help people feel less isolated and part of something important…
Mediquip and coproduction – what have I learned?
In this blog Paul Rackham, freelance consultant working alongside Medequip, looks at what you need to get started with ‘coproduction’:
You know when you try and stop yourself thinking about something?
I’m no different to most people, I love a blog or YouTube vid that enumerates the steps to whatever solution is needed. I have even done it myself Number 3. The future feeling of adult social care. (paulrackham.org) when I grandly claimed there were four VERY SPECIFIC issues people in social care needed to focus on in a post-Covid pandemic world.
So, when Angela Catley asked me to help out on a blog for a Community Catalysts Newsletter on Co-Production, I started compiling my list.
You see, I’ve been a very lucky guy this last year. Medequip are a private company whose mission is to help people stay independent for longer. They do this by providing Community Equipment Services and Technology Enabled Care Services in England and Wales and I’ve been helping Medequip on their journey to get better.
In turn, we have been helped by some great people working for brilliant organisations.
- Huw Griffiths at the British Association of Supported Employment, who helped with inclusive employment practice and greater involvement of staff living with a disability.
- Angela Catley and Pip Cannons of Community Catalysts who are helping put co-production at the heart of Medequip. Angela and Isaac Samuels write more about this in this newsletter.
- Susan Conquer and the staff and Members of Healthwatch Suffolk who have been tirelessly training Medequip teams so they can work with local people and groups.
- And Martin Walker and the folk at Think Local, Act Personal, who have helped Medequip adopt Making it Real as an improvement approach.
- …To top that, people who use the services or are just interested in helping have been trusting us with their stories and their opinions.
So being an involved spectator of all this good stuff I felt pretty sure I could put together a damn fine list.
But, and it’s a very big BUT…….here is where the old noggin got going. For every item I had on my list, I could think of someone who could make the point better…
- Language. The first thing we started talking about when I started to help Medequip. But Bryony Shannon already has a fabulous blog.
- Vision. Where you are trying to get to, but #Socialcarefuture has got that nailed, with their North Star inspired and co-produced vision.
- Active listening would be pretty high on my list too. I have no qualification in this. I just enjoy listening to people. Anyway a search tells me there are 2,020,000,000 listings already.
I also wanted to squeeze in honesty, to self and others because it can be used to cover accountability, authenticity and transparency, but that would be going back on my plan to avoid a list…Because I no longer do lists…
Instead, I am going to keep it simple. Without putting that in the list…
…Just get people in the room. Personal or virtual. Physically, metaphorically, emotionally, spiritually, just make sure they are in the room. Not just showpiece events but real work meetings and day to day conversations…