Lois from the Sun network talks about the importance of amplifying lives expense voices to ensure that local provision for mental health and addiction services are fit for purpose, Lois shares the impact of coproduction in action and what a difference this can make. 

um would you can't introduce yourself. Yeah. My name is Laura Sydney, and I'm the executive director of the Sun Network. Could you tell me what the Sun Network is place? Yep

So the Sun Network is, um, an organisation in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Um, and our aim is to amplify the voice of people that need mental health or addiction services. Um, and ensure that they are involved in the shaping of those services Sounds like a really important project

Thank you for sharing that. Could you share with me an experience that you've had of co producing? Yeah. So in our work in Cambridge and Peterborough, we kind of realised that not many people really fully understood the true meaning of co production

So we got a group of commissioners, service providers and service users together, people who lived experience and carers to look at what co production meant within our field of work. So we identify that people very quickly mistake coproduction collaboration and involvement for each other. So we set about producing their best practise guidance where people could fully understand the differences between those three things

And then we did 57 steps to success helping people to understand how to co produce well. And that's saying that people who lived experience carers, service providers and commissioners to help them understand and then on the back of that coproduction best practise guidance. We now, we then co designed some training, and now we co deliver that training really great kind of journey of kind of co design, co delivery and co production

So I was wondering if do you think you would have been able to get to where you are without having all of those people involved? It would have been such a struggle because it took us months as a group of all these different fields to come up with a definition of co production that we all agreed with. Um so that was quite that was quite funny, actually, just really struggling to say this yet we're all happy that this that's what co production means to us because we all had slightly different perspectives of of what it might mean coming from a commissioner perspective or a service provider or lived experience. Um, so So, yeah, it was a really good experience and definitely needed all of those all of that input from all those different areas

Thank you. So I'm wondering about you as your you personally. What does coproduction mean to you? And then I'm wondering about kind of the work that you do

What does co production means to the work you do? So me personally, it's about being heard. It's about people from every field being heard being able to have a say, sharing their own personal expertise either as somebody who's experienced a service or somebody who delivers the service, or somebody who funds the service just, you know, really coming together, working together and everybody having their equal, say, and being come back to being heard. So about being being heard and being involved, Um, for the Sun Network, it really is the crux of bringing together a system that works and meets the needs of the people that use it

So the system being the mental health and substance misuse system within came into and Peter Buyer um, and that co production element really helps to bring a fresh perspective from for people who lived experience to bring their own experience in their own skill sets, and then they also get to hear about the other side of how decisions are made and how those services running. Why it's done that way. Um, so it's really it's really great to bring people together within a system and help people understand how that system works and how they can make it work together

What changes did you see as a result of bringing people together? So we saw a greater understanding and empathy on all sides, particularly with people lived experience. They were like, I see how hard this person's job is now I see how difficult this is, whereas before that they were thinking, Well, they only care about the money, potentially, they're only interested in saving money. And then they were like, Yeah, I get it, I get it Or, you know, I felt really welcome

I was really surprised. I expected them to not be interested in what I was saying. And so we saw some really positive experiences from Excuse me, people with them lived experience

So I'm wondering about like, what would you say? The value of co production is? I think it's about helping to get the right service at the right time at the time when it is needed. Um, and I think having that input from everybody is so crucial. Um, because if you if you design a service without involving service uses, you don't know whether that's the right service that's needed

Or you don't know that you are marketing it in the right way and that you are using language that people understand. There's a lot of jobs and specific, uh, service specific jargon, a lot of acronyms. Um, so just to have somebody say What does that mean is a really good reminder that, you know, we need to be really careful as to how we're designing a service, and it has your own behaviour or perceptions changed as a result of co producing

Um, yeah, I would say that I I go along with that increased understanding that increased empathy. Our role is to work within a system and then bring people with lived experience into that system. So our my personal thoughts around that have changed from let's just get people involved to let's support people really well to enable them to be involved, because in our field we're working with people with high anxiety or depression and, you know, maybe low motivation

So just saying Come along to this workshop, you know, on the day, you know, they might say yes in the moment, but on the day, they're so anxious. So we the Sun Network will go and meet that person before Explain what the project is. Have a coffee with them, get to know them

You know the difference of having a a friendly face in that workshop or having somebody say that's OK. I can pick you up and bring you here. If that's what you need

You know, just that it's the change has been from expecting people to want to be involved, which they do, but to supporting people, to want him to be involved. It sounds really important about creating the right conditions for people to be involved. So I'm wondering about you talked about

It's important to support. People have to be in any challenges along the way for you. The work that you've done in coproduction Yeah, there has in our local area

Yeah, so I don't know if you know that you probably do that The NHS is bringing in integrated care systems. So our local came to and Peter about integrated care system have adopted our principles are co production principles for the for the so they're adhering to a set of standards that were lifted from this work. Our local came to a county council in the adult social care are using the coproduction best practise guidance and recommending that people come on this training

So it really has heightened awareness within our county. We've got people from our local, um, mental health trust came in Peterborough Foundation Trust coming onto our training as well, people are asking to work with this. Can we help them co produced leaflets or services, or can we find people that would be interested in working alongside them? So, yeah, it's taken co production from a buzzword to an actual thing so important

So you talked about the shared principles? Would you be able to share some of those like, what are these principles? Oh, gosh, Off the top of my head, I think you've put me on the spot. I can email them to you. That would be great, and and clearly they would have been co produced

So another question I was going to ask you so clearly you've talked about the impact co production has on individuals so and the work that you're doing locally, it seems to have such an impact that people are using yet. So what are your hopes for coproduction going forward? I think my hope would be based around some of the barriers that were coming across, and one of them is supporting people to be involved. You know, it's our job

So we do it, um uh, as well as we can. But we're only a small business, so a tiny organisation, so we can only support a certain amount of involvement. So my hope is that bigger services will also support co production, not tick a box, and say, Um, well, we'll do patient participation group, but it's not really mean anything

It just ticks a box, and they don't support people to be involved. I would like to see money put aside and ring fenced for co production so that it's not a nice to have. It's a must have, and I would like to see it written into policy that all services, you know, from the funders from the commissioners for them to say, actually, you have have to co produce your services

So it's a must have not Uh oh, we forgot. Or, you know Oh, well, co produce part of it or it's too late. We'll just ask a few people Now we've designed the service what they think of it, you know, And then their feedback can't influence at all

So just to really make a difference, have it embedded at the very beginning of services thoughts around co production. That sounds really important and really clearly something that we all want to happen. So do you have any top tips to help people cope produce? Um, yeah

Are we talking services commissioners or people who lived experience? Yeah. Yeah, I think the main one would be explain very clearly or have a very clear understanding of what co production is because we have some services that say, to staff co produced this piece of work. But I'm really explained very well what co production is

And it's hard or unfair to ask people to co produce if they don't really know what it means. So they'll go away with their own interpretation and perhaps not, you know, tick that box or do true co production. Um, so just basically explaining very well what co production is

I've said to people who lived experience, Do you want to be? Do you want to co produce something with us? And they're like, Yeah, And I said, What's your understanding of co producing? No idea. So, you know, to explain to people the benefits of co producing, you know what's in it for you? Because people aren't gonna do it unless they see something in it for them, you know, And it does cost money. So as a service or commissioner, um, I want to know that there's benefits to that so that you know, to do it

So to really consider the time it takes to co produce, you know, it takes time to build a relationship somebody to, or a group of people to get them into your service to co produce set up and in housing co production group, you know, use language that people understand loads of tips. I can send you our best practise guidance. And it is full of tips

Definitely. I would love to see that. So, um, it just goes to show that when you get people in the room, you can really develop some really tangible things that help other people

And I love the fact that the work that you've done, um and I had just had a look on, and I've seen it before around the principles. I just love the fact that the I C s is. I believe integrated care systems are now using your kind of principles

Do you have anything else you wanted to share with us about co production and the value of co production? Yeah. I think just one last thing would be the facilitation of it. Um, it's quite as you know, we we've spent years honing this skill around how to facilitate co production

Um, and we're learning something new every single day. So, you know, if you if you can't do it in house, we don't have the time or you don't have the skilled staff, you know, get a facilitator in, um, and facilitate it. Well, make sure everybody can be heard

Um, just thinking some people, we have people come along, and we had a lady come along who, um wanted to be involved, but was so anxious that she was whispering in our ear and we had to speak for her. So we would we would put post it notes all around or just a table full of paper so people can scribble or we'll have a craft event. So people are crafting while they're talking, so the focus isn't solely on them

So just to think outside the box on how you can co produce thank you so much. And if people wanted to find you, where would they find you? Is that if you got website or we have yet it's www dot some network dot org dot UK and we're on Twitter insta tiktok Everything else. Facebook

All those other social media as well. There's some Sun Network cams now. You've got me tick tock after coming to a very addicted to it

Yeah, so thank you. I don't have any other questions. Do you have anything else you wanted to close with? No, No, that's that's That's cool


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