Co-production, in the context of the report, is the broadening and deepening of public services when they are delivered by the beneficiaries, alongside professionals.
‘Turbo charging volunteering: co-production and public service reform’ states that whilst the term ‘co-production’ is now in widespread use in public services, and the NHS is formally committed to it, the radical meaning of the idea, as set out by pioneers like Elinor Ostrom and Edgar Cahn in the USA, has not made it into the management and design of UK services.
This report sets out ways that ‘co-production’ of services can be applied more widely in health, housing, social care and other contexts. Examples of co-production already in practice include citizen justice panels, co-operative nurseries as well as time banks, where people offer services to members and can choose services they would like in return.
The report says that there are clear social benefits from producing services in this way. It argues that service users, their friends and families, are able to build a much broader range of activities and gain the respect that goes with being “equal partners”. In addition, the report finds that there are significant savings to be realised through co-production. Research has identified that it could cut NHS costs by at least 7% (£4.4 billion) a year and potentially up to a fifth.
This report looks at how an approach to developing and delivering public services in co-production might be mainstreamed in the UK, including:
- Develop the supportive infrastructure. This proposes that local teams are employed to persuade local services to set up time banks, health champions or any of the other models, and then links them together and challenges them to tackle new, overlapping areas of activity.
- Change the requirements for public sector contractors. This approach has the potential to prevent the narrowing of service outcomes. Service contracts need to specify where contractors will build social networks and, where appropriate, reduce need during the lifetime of the contract.
- Reverse the priorities at assessment stage. Instead of reaching for care packages and complex solutions, there needs to be a range of options and organisations that make it possible for people to meet needs informally – achieved by assessments that look at what people can do, and want to do, rather than just what they can’t do.
- Merge budgets locally. These shifts can only be achieved if there are means whereby services can invest together in the preventive infrastructure that will help them all reduce demand in the long-term.
- Organise a national network. There needs to be a national network that can balance the need for local loyalty and local budgets with national branding, national training support and qualifications. It may be that the model here is the National Trust.
The report can be read here.