“It’s all about the way we communicate as we collaborate” #CoProWeek

Welcome to National Co-production Week (3-7 July) – back for its eighth year in 2023!

An opportunity to celebrate effective co-production, share stories of when it works well and promote the huge contribution people using public services can make when their voices are heard and they can help shape those services to work better for disabled people.

This week, we will guide you through some of this work and how it is creating change in health and care systems in Coventry and Warwickshire.

We start today with an article by Kat, a member of our Experts By Experience (EbE) team, about her involvement with the NHS Neurodevelopmental Liaison Team on a project to recognise and reduce some of the barriers autistic people face when trying to use mental health services.

A group of four, two men and two women, sit in casual clothing around a table with coffee mugs, pens and notebooks talking about coproduction and what it means to them.
It’s #CoProWeek! Photo from our April 2023 experts by experience meet up in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
Over to you, Kat!

My name is Kat. I’m autistic and mum to three autistic children. I joined Grapevine in December 2022 as an EbE and recently worked on an exciting project with the Neurodevelopmental Liaison Team.

Can you give us a summary of the work you’ve been doing?

The neurodevelopment liaison team recognised that autistic people often face barriers when accessing mental health services. Their work focused on offering training and resources for mental health professionals. I joined the project in March 2023 and was asked to offer my insight, as I am an autistic person with lived experience of accessing mental health services.

The project focused on the team’s 4Ps Reasonable Adjustments Model – a model which looks at the Person, Processes, Place and Partnership when thinking about making reasonable adjustments for autistic people. I joined weekly team meetings online and helped to create a reasonable adjustments guide.

An infrographic about Resonable Adjustments shows the four Ps - person, processes, place and partnership. The Grapevine and local authorities logos are also shown along with the rainbow infinity symbol.
A graphic showing the 4 Ps Reasonable Adjustment Model coproduced by experts by experience, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire Integrated Care Board, Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council.
What has it been like working in a team of EbEs and EbTs (experts by training)?

At first, I felt nervous about working with the team of professionals; what could I possibly have to offer? However, they all made me feel very welcome and valued and took my suggestions on board.

The people I worked with were extremely supportive, positive and inspiring. It was also great to work alongside another EbE as part of the project. He shared the peer support work he has been doing, which involves offering advice, insight and direct support within mental health services.

What skills have you developed throughout this work?

I often struggle with expressing myself but the team listened to me and made me feel that my opinions matter. Being involved in the project has boosted my confidence immensely.

The team explained new terminology to me as we went along and I felt comfortable to ask questions. They discussed the background to the project openly, so I learnt a lot about the work that is happening ‘behind the scenes’ to support autistic people.

A blonde middle-aged woman with plaits and wearing a black vest smiles for a photo in front of a garden fence. The sun is shining.
Kat from Experts By Experience.
What are some of the highlights of this work? What are some of the aspirations for the future?

I felt great pride when I was emailed the draft ‘4Ps’ reasonable adjustment guide and asked to review it. It will be a valuable resource for mental health professionals and the 4Ps model has scope to be used across other services too.

“Moving forward, the aim of the project is to provide training to different mental health teams and wards and to upskill professionals to offer autism diagnostic assessments. I think this strategy is fantastic, considering that people with mental health difficulties often face barriers to seeking a diagnosis.” (Kat, expert by experience)

What’s your key message about co-production?

For me, it’s all about the way we communicate as we collaborate. Respecting each other and listening to the ideas, experiences and opinions of others is so important. I think the clear and positive communication within our team helped to make the project a success.

You can find out more about the Neurodevelopmental Service along with lots of useful resources here.

About Experts By Experience Co-production Service

Grapevine is a triple action organisation and an engine for social change. This project forms part of our #ShiftingPower work in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Experts by Experience is an opportunity for autistic people or people with a learning disability (and their parent or carer, where applicable) to influence decision-making and have a say on new services and strategies that have or will have an impact on disabled people.

They might be involved in designing, reviewing and evaluating different services, as well as supporting recruitment of the right people to work for the local authority or in the NHS.

This project is commissioned by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council and Coventry and Warwickshire Integrated Care Board and contactable at ebe@grapevinecovandwarks.org.