As part of work to support implementation of the Care Act 2014, Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) was tasked with improving the understanding and prevalence of co-production with people and communities in the commissioning process, linked to new duties in the Act around market shaping.
This has culminated in the web based resource People not process –Co-production in commissioning we have published today.
Co-production has always been central to the work of TLAP and is at the heart of the Care and Support reforms. The definition of co-production developed by our National Co-production Advisory Group is, “a meeting of minds coming together to find shared solutions…(where) people who use services and carers are valued by organisations as equal partners who can share power and have influence over decisions made.”
While the idea has deep roots, it remains a relatively underdeveloped concept in public policy in England, where the rhetoric has so far lagged behind the reality.
The current context provides a unique opportunity to change this as co-production is becoming part of an increasingly strong framework; the Localism Act is freeing up commissioners and providers to be more innovative in meeting local needs and the Public Service Act is placing a duty on public bodies to consider social value in procurement. The statutory guidance for the Care Act also makes explicit reference to co-production in relation to prevention and market shaping duties, stating that, “local authorities should pursue the principle that market shaping and commissioning should be shared endeavours, with commissioners working alongside providers and people with care and support needs, carers, family members and the public to find shared and agreed solutions.” Fine words indeed.
Despite an increasing evidence base for the economic and social value of co-production in improving service efficiency and outcomes - for example, Right Here Right Now: Taking Coproduction into the Mainstream and Building community capacity: Making an economic case - there has been relatively limited attention paid to embedding similar approaches in strategic commissioning and market shaping activity. But this is where the benefits can be greatest and where genuine co-production could have a profound impact in the decisions made about the future direction of services and new models of care. There are some great examples (and the new resource includes many of them), but these remain exceptions rather than the norm and at a time of sustained pressure on public finances it is now doubly important to fully harness the potential of co-production to meet the challenges we all face.
So our new resource provides a wealth of learning about what works, pointers for how commissioning can be enhanced through greater co-production and a variety of tools that can help, regardless of your starting position. Whether the driver is the Care Act, the Five Year Forward View or the desire to make decisions together rather than in silos, now is truly the time to make commissioning and market development a shared endeavour. The future sustainability of the system may very well depend upon it.