Posts Tagged ‘coproduction’

 I’m always interested to read what David Boyle has to say.  He is the co-author of a recent report published jointly by the New Economics Foundation and NESTA.  The report puts forward co-production as the best, most cost effective way of improving public services.

Boyle and his co author, Michael Harris, argue that by focusing entirely on people’s needs rather than what they can contribute, services have disempowered their users and done little to prevent needs arising in the first place.  Universal welfare systems based on taxation aren’t sustainable, they suggest, without better encouragement for self-help.

They define co-production as delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. 

Public service professionals change from being fixers to facilitators.  It’s a shift of perspective, from seeing the people who use services as hidden resources rather than drains on the system.

The authors suggest that our specialised services dealing with crime, health and education rely on an ‘underpinning operating system’ consisting of family, neighbourhood, community and civil society.

So far, so good.  But here’s the crunch. ‘Co-production,’ the authors rightly point out, ‘needs to be backed by measures to make sure that everyone has the capacity to participate on equal terms’.

Demos’ report on the power gap in the UK shows that there are huge disparities in the power that people exercise over their lives which strongly correlate with education and occupational status.   Not so much co-producers, some people both direct and self-produce. But the people who often use public services the most are those in the most deprived parts of the country which in Demos’ power map have the lowest ‘power’ scores.  In addition, the change from fixing to facilitating, as is clear from the transforming social care agenda, can only be achieved with investment in staff training.

So, co-production may be the way forward for public services but we should be honest about the costs involved in doing it well and doing it equitably in the current financial climate.


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