Professionals should be able to use their ‘expertise by experience’
Tina Coldham and Pete Fleischman led a workshop at the third ESRC seminar which provided an interesting historical overview of the development of co-production dating back to the dark ages in the 1980s up to the present day. At the end, they threw out 2 questions for discussion: ‘Is it possible to truly co-produce in mental health?’ and ‘Is there a danger that co-pro will get hi-jacked?’
The view of the participants was that co-production is a process, a journey – there’s no alternative than to continue working away at it. Even if co-production is being co-opted, at the very least it means that people are talking about it. Some participants explained that they witness and participate in authentic (rather than ‘watered down’) co-production – but it’s often hidden and under-acknowledged.
Significant progress will have been made when mental health professionals feel able to be open about their own experiences of mental distress. In other words, professionals also bring expertise by experience, and this should be seen as a professional asset. As things stand, most professionals feel unable to disclose their personal experience of mental health. Until they do, we won’t achieve the ideas of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘mutuality’. Although some people don’t like these words – they are the language of co-production. So look up the words if you don’t understand them!
Tina Coldham campaigns for a better understanding of mental health issues in society and works to improve service provision. She has enduring mental health problems, and has used used mental health services over many years. Tina has worked in the voluntary sector, across disability, in academia, with regulators and governing bodies as a trainer, researcher and consultant. Tina is currently a Director with HASCAS who conduct service reviews and homicide investigations; a member of the NIHR Involve Advisory Group and Advisory Board; Honorary Visiting Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York; An associate at the Centre for Citizenship and Community at UCLan; and has stepped down as Chair of the National Survivor User Network having led this from the project planning stage to independence. Tina also chairs the SCIE co-production network.
Pete Fleischmann has experience of using mental health services. Pete was coordinator of Brent Mental Health User Group (BUG) from 1991 to 1996. Until 2004 Pete worked as an independent consultant. Contracts have included working with the Service User Research Enterprise (SURE) at the Institute of Psychiatry, developing user involvement at Revolving Doors Agency. Since 2004 Pete has been Head of Co-production at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) where he works four days per week. SCIE is a national charity set up by the government in 2002 to improve social care services. Pete leads SCIE’s programme of work around co-production. Co-production is the term SCIE uses to describe working in equal partnership with people who use services, and carers. Pete is responsible for the production of good practice materials about co-production and ensuring that users and carers are at the heart of all SCIE’s work.