What is Parent Carer Participation and Co-production?

Parent carer participation is when parent carers get involved in service planning and decision making so that services meet the needs of their families and resources are not wasted on services which parents and families do not want or work.

Effective parent carer participation happens when parents carers have conversations with and work alongside decision makers and practitioners, in order to design, develop and improve services. Working with parents carers helps decision makers and practitioners to understand what needs to happen to create services that meet families’ needs and also helps parent carers understand the complexity involved and the challenges faced by the who have to bring about that change. Working together and sharing knowledge enables families and those who design and provide services, to find solutions that work.

When parent carers are working in full and equal partnership with professionals it is called Co-production. Click here to find out more about Co-production

How Does PACC define Co-production?

  • It is working in partnership with the community that you are aiming to support, it is not about organisational partnership, that is joint working.
  • It is setting the agenda together -  agreeing what needs to be talked about together - what are the important issues and what needs to be achieved.
  • It happens at a strategic level – where parent carers have a voice through representative organisations such as PACC and at an individual level, where individual families are empowered to be fully involved in planning how their support will be delivered and with what aims.

It can only be successful if;

  • All those involved in planning, delivering and monitoring the support for SEND families understand this and are committed to this way of working.
  • There are structures in place to facilitate it to happen

Steps on the Journey Towards Co-production

All parent carers need to be provided with relevant and timely information, which helps them access the services and support they need to care for their disabled children. The better informed parents are, the more confident they are and the more able to make informed choices for their children.

Consultation is a step up from simply giving information as it requires two way communication. Services may consult with parent carers on existing services, to seek their opinions on how services can be improved or how good practice could be replicated elsewhere.

Another reason for consultation could be when changes to services are planned. In this instance as many parents as possible should be informed about proposed changes to a service and invited to give their ideas and raise any concerns about the proposals before final decisions are made.

Consultation is a two way communication process. The people carrying out the consultation need to reply to parent carers responses, setting out clearly what has changed as a result of their feedback and where it has not been possible to make changes, explaining why. If they fail to do this then parent carers will become disillusioned with the consultation process and will not be motivated to respond in future consultations.

Many parent carers do not have the time or choose not to get involved in full participation. However, all parents have opinions about the services their children receive. 

Parent carer participation is a significant step up and requires real commitment from parent carers and decision makers. Informed and empowered parent carers are enabled to become actively involved in service planning and strategic decision making. Decision makers and practitioners are given the opportunity to draw on the unique skills and expertise which parent carers can offer. This can make a significant difference to the effectiveness and appropriateness of services. Services which have been designed taking into account all perspectives, including parent carers, are inevitably more effective and resources are not wasted on services which parents and families do not take up or value.

Full parent carer participation should result in Co-Production.  This is where all team members, including parent carers, agree outcomes together and co-produce recommendations, plans, actions and materials as a collective.