Doncaster Council

The City of Doncaster Council’s adult social care team want every person in Doncaster to live in the place they call home with the people and things that they love, in communities where they look out for one another, doing things that matter to them.

To make this vision a reality, they knew that they need to work differently, and that working alongside people with lived experience was the best place to begin. The Making It Real framework provided a useful starting point for conversations. Over time, these conversations have started happening in more and more places, and since then they have lead to new ways of working.

The council’s staff team knows that there is still a lot to be done, but the tangible changes they have made so far are already having a positive effect on people’s experiences and their lives. “Being asked to lead on co-production was a bit daunting at first, but I knew we needed to start with conversation with people who live here,” says Bryony, Strategic Lead for Practice Development at Doncaster Council. “We started with a small group of people with lived experience, as well as practice leads. Together, we decided to co-produce a set of principles that would underpin the way we work.”

Making It Real provided a compass to help guide these conversations. The I and We Statements were used as conversation starters, helping Bryony and the team to draw out what really mattered to people, as well as their ideas for what might make things better. The people Bryony spoke to found Making It Real to be a helpful tool, and they decided to use it as a foundation for taking things further. “The group that was forming had the idea of creating a Making It Real Board. They wanted this to be made up of people who draw upon care and support as well as senior leaders in adult social care, in a 50-50 split. Together, we decided it should be co-chaired by both a person with lived experience and the Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing. The idea to create a board was not something we had already envisioned at the Council – it came directly from the conversations we had with people living in Doncaster.”

Co-producing how to work together

Before getting started as a board, the people involved came together to discuss how it would operate. This included who should participate, as well as the creation of a Co-production Payments Policy and a dedicated fund to pay people with lived experience for their time. The group also co-produced the terms of reference for the board. Bryony believes it’s important to just get started and to try things out. “Start by finding some people to talk to. It doesn’t have to be a huge group, or formalised into a board structure. Simply having conversations will start to spark ideas, and you can develop how you work together as you go along. It’s better to work with some people that draw on care and support than no people at all!”. The board began their regular meetings in Spring 2022. Early on, they decided to work towards producing a ‘local account’ report, which would eventually be called ‘Your Care and Support: Doncaster’. It was intended to celebrate what was good in adult social care, and act as an honest reflection of what was not so good. And, crucially, it would set out priorities and actions for the following year.

Making It Real underpinned the structure of the board meetings as well as the report itself, with the six themes acting as discussion topics for each meeting. Prior to the meeting itself, Bryony and the team collated quotes and data relating to each theme, and used this to feed into the in-depth conversations as they developed. Discussion topics included:

  • What people from Doncaster had told them about their experience of care and support in relation to the Making it Real themes
  • What data could tell them about how they were doing relating to each theme, in comparison with other councils both nationally and regionally
  • Good practice examples relating to the theme from Doncaster
  • Priorities to focus on for the theme in the next year

After all six themes had been covered in the meetings, Bryony worked to co-produce the final report with the board. “We worked with people with lived experience to make sure it was written in a way that worked for them. This included making sure that language was accessible, as well as incorporating their ideas on how to present data. And we added lots of direct quotes from people who had spoken in the board meetings, which meant their personal views were clearly included and helped to demonstrate their influence in shaping the report and our priorities.”

Creating a clear plan

A key section of the report is called ‘10 Key Actions for 2023’. These simply and directly spell out the top priorities for making adult social care better in Doncaster. Now, part-way through 2023, these actions are in various stages of being implemented. This shows a direct connection between the conversations people had around Making It Real, to the ideas they created together, and finally, to tangible change. One of the 10 Key Actions was to increase opportunities for local people with lived experience of care and support to influence the council’s approach to adult social care. This ranges from improving services to recruiting the right people. “We’ve just recruited to the post of ‘Carers Strategic Lead’,” says Bryony. “ To do this, we worked with a group of carers to rewrite the job description based on the priorities of the carers. We co-produced the job advert and shortlist, and interviewed the candidates and planned their induction together.” Another of the 10 Key Actions way to improve publicly-available information about people’s rights, the Council’s responsibilities, and sources of support. This involved setting up an ‘Information and Advice Working Group’ with people with lived experience, and this group is now co-producing the information themselves, as well as a set of standards for content that will be created in the future.

Moving forward together

Doncaster Council understands that this is not a process that has an end point. “Working with Making It Real is about making a commitment to continuously get better, and to have a framework that guides us in doing that. That’s why we plan to revisit the process every year and produce the local account report on an annual basis.” Recognising that there is always room for improvement is a crucial step in making care and support better. “At Doncaster, like in many places, we know that there is still a lot of work to be done,” Bryony continues. “But Making It Real helps us to have a clear thread running through from people’s experience and expertise through to actions we take to improve things. And that’s something we are really proud of.”

Learn more and download the Adults, Health & Wellbeing Local Account on the Doncaster Council website