May Day historically is about the people and empowerment. It is therefore intentional that an open letter, including the signature of Graham Benfield our Chief Executive, has been sent on 1 May 2013 to Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones AM challenging the Welsh Government to take up co-production.
WCVA is proposing co-production as a solution to the ‘burning platform’ in health and social care of financial cuts together with demographics (a big increase in the elderly).
Co-production sees everyone as an asset and in a reciprocal relationship, able to give and receive. This creates a richer, better life and systems of support for everyone, as opposed to the bleak alternative of retreating basic state provision as funding dries up.
It has been the Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas AM, who has been championing the citizen and providing the one opening door for co-production. Her independent commission took evidence, including from us promoting co-production, resulting in Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action which committed to developing citizen directed support and more people led services.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill introduces the principle of well-being and moves us from the old-fashioned, stigmatising ‘people in need’ to a mutual ‘we’ where at times some of us may need additional care and support.
The Deputy Minister has introduced a citizen’s panel for her high level Social Services Partnership Forum and has not only taken part in the I Matter, We Matter campaign but also welcomed its responses for the National Outcomes Framework. The new Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM, also seems an ally to further champion co-production.
But it is not all plain sailing: the development of citizen directed support in Wales seems to be teetering with only a small band of dedicated local authority and third sector practitioners committed to achieving it with the citizens they work with.
The Wales Alliance for Citizen Directed Support is spearheading this work and brings cross-sector practioners and people using services together, but it does not get the formal recognition its work deserves.
At the Social Services Improvement Agency summit last week, leadership was identified as key in local authorities to make the whole system change to being citizen directed.
Giving oral evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee scrutinising the Bill last week in the Senedd, I was concerned to find AMs still believing that direct payments would result in a lot of people potentially being very distressed, exploited or not getting what they required, so the message of a co-produced approach, that of citizen directed support, hadn’t reached them.
Leadership, with its implicit bravery, needs to step up for Wales at this critical time. To gain this prize of rich plurality and mutualism on offer, communities and people need to be truly empowered. So we look to our First Minister and the Government to lead the way for Wales.