This year, Coproduction Week falls between 6th and 10th July, and the theme is ‘Coproduction in a Changing World’. 

As we begin our slow return to normal after months of lockdown, coproduction is more crucial now than ever. But leaving all jargon aside, what exactly is coproduction, and how can this way of working help us all? 

Coproduction is an equal partnership where everyone’s experience, knowledge and skills are used to create better outcomes. When parent carers, schools, doctors, commissioners and other providers work together, it leads to shared solutions and a clear understanding of local needs. It is the best and most effective way in the long term of improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND. 

Coproduction is a legal requirement. It’s embedded within the Children & Families Act 2014 (Section 19) which makes it clear that, when working with children and young people with SEND, local authorities must: 

  • Have regard to the wishes and feeling of the child or young person and their parents 
  • Provide the information and support necessary to enable the child or young person and their parents to participate as fully as possible in decisions that affect them 
  • Support the child or young person and their parents to achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, preparing them effectively for adulthood. 

Coproduction is therefore a top priority for local authorities and transforms education, health and social care provision. Parent carers have a huge part to play in coproduction due to our lived experience and knowledge of what needs to change. We know what good looks like – we just need help to get our voices heard, and a place to make that happen. This is where West Sussex Parent Carer Forum comes in. As a bridge between parent carers and the providers and commissioners involved in the services that support their children, we are in a unique position to bring the right people around the decision-making table 

Grainne Saunders, a Parent Carer Rep with WSPCF told us, “I like to use the analogy of a wedding when talking about coproduction. People experience a wedding in a host of different ways – the person who hears about the wedding from a friend of a friend but isn’t personally invited; the person who is invited to the evening reception; the guest who is invited to the whole eventand the wedding planner who is intimately involved in every stage of the planning, right through to the organising the ceremony and arranging the details of the reception. 

Likewise, a lot of parent carers will be aware that ‘someone somewhere’ is making decisions that will affect their child with SEND. Some will get involved by taking part in various consultations that WSPCF works on with the local authority But a handful of parent carers will be keen to become more involved. They’ll become Forum Reps, committed to sitting around the table with Commissioners and Providers to bring their experience of ‘what good should look like’.  

Grainne told us: “I know this isn’t very scientific, but I believe you can sense and feel coproduction. It’s that ‘whizz-pop’ feeling in your stomach when everyone cares and is committed to working alongside each other towards a mutual aim. Coproduction doesn’t just happen; it’s an inclusive and very deliberate way of working. Working in coproduction is as if everyone were a wedding planner. The aim is clear. Everyone has different skills, ideas and budgets but in time and with understanding, everyone is valued and respected. The aim (a wedding in this case) is absolutely worth all the effort; it has meaning and is celebrated equally by everyone with longlasting legacy.” 

You don’t need an armful of qualifications to be a Parent Rep – just the passion to want to make a difference for children and young people with SEND. In return you’ll receive fantastic training and support and you’ll be reimbursed for all your out of pocket expenses  So let’s get our voices heard; by gathering our collective experiences we can help improve local services for all families. And as we move out of lockdown into a world that looks the same but is somehow different, some standard practices around the development of services for our children and young people can’t be a bad thing. 

If you would like to be part of our team of Reps who make such a difference for children and young people with SEND, contact Team Manager, Rowan Westwood for more information on 01903 726188.