Co-production Week 2023 – Mickey’s story

I joined Riverside in 2016 as a support worker at Old Tea Warehouse, a supported accommodation project for homeless adults between 18 and 65, having previously worked in a night shelter in St Albans for a few years. Since then, I have undertaken a variety of different roles, managing Supported Accommodation, Retirement Living and Floating Support, provided administrative support to Operations and Business Development. I have always been passionate about care and support (C&S) customers being involved in the design and delivery of services they receive, and that’s when I decided the co-production officer role was the job for me.  

Co-production is very simply, finding shared solutions with anyone who may be affected by a topic, project or suggestion. In Riverside, and for our customers, that means providing customers accessible, inclusive opportunities to have their say and give colleagues the benefit of lived experience.

Having a say in what goes into a local procedure, recruiting colleagues, championing Equality and Diversity, the look and feel of the physical environment, Service Quality Audits…it all goes a long way in upskilling customers to advocate for their needs, engage in support in new ways, feel empowered, and above all, feel valued and respected.  

This of course in turn means great benefits for the business, but overall, our customer satisfaction will increase the more we can embed co-production as a way of working and morally, as a wise man once said, it’s just the right thing to do.  

Sadly, for many C&S customers across the sector, they have been shoved to the fringes of society, made to feel worthless and “less” of a person. By placing our customers at the heart of everything we do, giving them the choice over what happens in their service, we can begin to reverse that and make a difference.  

I’ve been in this role for 18 months now and I’m really proud of our operational colleagues who go above and beyond to make our customers voices heard. Here are just some of our biggest achievements so far:  

  • Over 340 colleagues and customers have attended a variety of face-to-face and virtual co-production training sessions.  
  • Service Involvement Commitments are held in 91% of services so far. These are pledges made between customers and colleagues around involvement opportunities and the support given to access them.  
  • The creation and use of a new recording mechanism to accurately measure all our customer engagement. In just nine months, 15% of all customer engagement activities recorded were co-produced.  
  • Customers have been supported to attend virtual meetings to co-produce the new C&S Strategy 23-26 and new Service Charge Statement Design.
  • Customers have also expressed their experiences of homelessness in contribution to our Homes For Cathy Commitments and related Ending Homelessness Together campaign. 
  • An active champion group (the COGs, or otherwise known as Co-production Gurus) comprised of colleagues and customers who share best practise, contribute to pieces of ongoing work such as the “Menu of Involvement”, the relaunch of the National C&S Customer Newsletter, and renewal of our Library of Targeted Support modules.  

And it’s not stopping there. In the next year I will be focussing on developing consistent ways of recording customer feedback, developing a C&S Customer Group who will have accessible and inclusive national involvement opportunities in C&S operations, and continue to develop co-production as a culture within Riverside.  

In a world where funding is being cut left, right and centre, I anticipate that it will become more difficult to truly co-produce, however, I have complete faith in the team at Riverside and our wonderful customers who rarely shy away from an opportunity to give us their feedback.