Many months ago I had an email from the poetically-inclined Rhodri Thomas from Cynnal Cymru / Sustain Wales. He listed a number of events, conversations and policy initiatives that he’d recently been involved in, commenting that ‘there seems to be a great move like a frozen river breaking up – an overall direction of travel’.
It’s a perfect description what’s happening here in Wales. And the river appears to be unfreezing with exhilarating speed…
Co-production is on the agenda right across Wales – in every sector, and at every level. Grassroots action is increasingly supported by Government words AND Government action.
The Social Services Wales Bill is now the Social Services and Well-being Wales Bill; Gwenda Thomas, the Minister responsible, has emphasised her commitment to ’empower people by giving them a stronger voice and more control over services’ and the need for ‘greater co-operation, partnership working and co-production of services’.
The committee overseeing the Bill have invited me to a round-table discussion on stakeholder empowerment with colleagues from Wales Co-operatives, Disability Wales, Children in Wales and the WCVA. The chair of that committee, Mark Drakeford AM, is a champion of co-pro. As Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences, he’s also chairing Cardiff University’s Policy Cafe next week – we’re discussing how co-production values can be embedded in the legislation.
And over in WG’s Environment and Sustainable Development unit, Change Manager Diana Reynolds is helping to co-create a co-pro revolution, with strong support from the Environment Minister and Directorate. Co-pro principles and practice are transforming leadership, strategy and ways of working.
Their radicalism is echoed in WG’s Sustainable Development Charter which aims to support citizens to ‘determine their own lives, shape their communities and achieve their full potential’ and to ‘promote social justice and equality of opportunity’.
Since the Essex Report of 2008, housing policy in Wales has focused on co-operative partnership working. This approach remains key to the current White Paper for Better Lives and Communities which recognises that ‘a decent home that people can afford is essential to their ability to live healthy, productive lives in safe, strong, inclusive and fair communities.’ The Housing Minister’s passionate attack on the ‘social atrocity’ of recent benefit changes makes it clear that his commitment to this vision is heartfelt.
In a recent speech to the Institute of Welsh Politics, the leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood called for ‘decision-making [to be pushed] down to those directly involved and directly affected as service users and service providers’ and a ‘process of co-production between health professionals and patient groups’.
She also asserted that ‘we could be on the cusp of a new age of democratic participation’. Evidence suggests that her optimism is well-placed.
The ice is wafer-thin…