An example of co-production activity in action
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In our Manifesto for Change, Fulfilling Lives South East (FLSE) identified that women experiencing multiple disadvantage going through child protection and care proceedings should be offered independent advocacy, with the aim of helping women understand each stage of the process, including what is going to happen next.
Our internal Project Group identified a lack of resources available to explain the process of what happens when Children and Family Services get involved.
In January 2021, FLSE created a sub-group which included volunteers, experts by experience as well as other team members to help prioritise the different discussions and we created a mind-map together, shown below.
As a team, and together with SpeakOut, we wanted to ensure that the information is accessible and available. Over the years, clients, front- line staff and experts by experience voiced the need for a leaflet and a simple explanation of the process of what could happen at different stages when social services are involved in childcare proceedings. Together with the sub-group we reflected on this and identified the lack of coordinated information and support. This really did highlight to us the importance of creating new resources to support women with MCN going through care proceedings. That is why FLSE has worked together across teams, with co-production at its heart, to develop and share our Guide to Child Protection and Care Proceedings as well as the new Women’s Rights leaflet.
We are also lucky to have dedicated volunteers and a passionate action group. Their input was crucial on how the resources have been created and designed.
Reflections from Linda, a volunteer with FLSE:
‘The creation of these resources was the first project I helped to co-produce as a volunteer for FLSE from start to finish.
Co-production requires everyone’s involvement, ideas and feedback. Getting feedback on a piece of work that someone has done can be scary or upsetting and was something I was worried about. However, one of the highlights of the project for me turned out to be getting feedback from other volunteers, having them input ideas on how to make the design as accessible and useful as possible, as well as the thoughtful opinions and information provided by the frontline staff team.
I had the opportunity to experience the highs and lows of “getting things done” in a safe, pressure-free environment. It has given me an idea on how services operate (or should operate?) and helped me realise how teamwork is necessary to break down daunting tasks into more manageable steps, thus expanding what can be achieved by people in order to change, and helping people navigate various systems.‘
Reflections from Vikki, FLSE Engagement Worker:
‘It has been a privilege to work alongside Michaela and Linda creating this important set of resources. This work is a great example of co-production in action and the positive impact it can have – both on the work produced and the individuals taking part. Linda is a very motivated and reflective volunteer with many skills, and it was great to be working in a project where we place trust in volunteers to take ownership of pieces of work of their choosing and allow them space to shine. She was also able to identify development goals that she would like support to achieve during this process, such as presenting the work to groups of people and incorporating their feedback into the final product.
By consulting with frontline staff, systems change staff, managers and a diverse lived experience group we have ensured our final resources approach this sensitive and potentially triggering topic sensitively and that they will be useful to a wide range of people. Building relationships of trust across teams of staff and volunteers, and holding our meetings in a safe, boundaried, trauma-informed way meant that people felt comfortable using their voice and sharing their opinions.
This project is also an example of a volunteer having value beyond their lived experience – Linda used her lived experience perspective in creating the resources but also drew on other personal and professional qualities to take part in these pieces of work.‘
Producing such sensitive resources involved lots of conversations with FLSE’s project group, partners like SpeakOut as well as front-line staff and social workers.
For us it was crucial to use the full ladder of co-production to make sure we are inclusive, support people to voice their opinions, give them choices for how they take part, and offer chances to give feedback and build that feedback into the work.
To ensure accountability, our experts by experience actively fed into the design and content of the video, as well as deciding the content and colours of the leaflet. We are very happy that Linda took the leading role in designing the leaflet.
And we are now happy to launch the online guide to child protection and care proceedings together with the Women’s Rights Information Leaflet.
There is still a lot more work to be done to ensure women experiencing MCN and recurrent child care proceedings are being fully supported across systems and we continue taking steps to minimise this gap.
Vikki – Project Consultant
Linda – FL Volunteer
Kate Jones- Project Consultant
Michaela Rossmann- Systems Change Officer