Last year service delivery sites across Victoria and New South Wales engaged in an exciting, innovative and empowering co-production project. Staff and consumers at some outreach service sites came together with equal representation to develop a 12-month Consumer Participation Site Plan.
Co-production means the development and delivery of services in an equal relationship between professionals and the people that access services. Consumer Participation means consumer involvement in services at varying levels.
Each outreach site appointed a staff and consumer “site champion”. Then, both champions attended a workshop where they explored the concepts of Consumer Participation and co-production through interactive activities and discussions facilitated by senior Neami Consumer Participation staff.
The next step of the process was for consumer and staff champions to develop and deliver a series of workshops at service sites, aimed at developing ideas for the 12-month Site Plan. The champions facilitated a workshop for consumers at each site, and for staff at each site. These workshops were a buzz of activity, with many ideas thought up and thought through. The final step was a joint planning session, comprised of equal numbers of staff and consumers. At this workshop, the participants decided on five different Consumer Participation initiatives that would make up the Site Plan. The idea of this workshop was that both staff and consumers had balanced input into the decision-making process.
Valerie Pelletier, CRSW and Staff Site Champion at Heidelberg, reflected on the process:
“The greatest challenge was setting aside the structure of how’d we’d normally set things out… [We were] constantly aware of making the consumer champion feel like an equal member of the driving force.”
The beauty of co-production lies in shifting the balance of power. While traditionally service providers develop, plan and implement their services for consumers, co-production allows that process to be equally divided between services and consumers. Kathy McCormick, Victorian Consumer Participation Officer, said: “Co-production is a challenge to business as usual and a radical undertaking.”
Although Neami has a rich history of co-production and co-design, a project of this size and scope is brand new territory for the organisation. “Because Neami has taken a leap forward with this, we’ve had to create it from scratch,” Kathy said.
The outcomes of the last joint planning workshops were positive. Valerie said: “[There was a] powerful moment where everyone felt empowered by a clear vision, and that we’d done this together.”
Service sites came up with a variety of innovative and brave initiatives, including the co-writing of case notes, group co-production and facilitation, consumer involvement in Mental Health Week activities and consumer participation in staff training.
Jocelyn Bland, Consumer Site Champion at our Heidelberg site, reflected on the co-production process: “The more I learnt, the more I realised it was… a word that articulated the heart of Neami’s goal: to enable consumers to drive their personal recovery. Having co-production [at Neami] has meant that there are more opportunities for consumers to move from a passive role in accepting mental health care to an active one… this points to an increase in consumer’s agency and self-determination. I can attest that the result of this is that consumers are empowered. Being a part of this has galvanised my trust in Neami, and it has given me confidence that I could gain paid employment again.”