Nottinghamshire County Council

Really listening to people who draw upon care and support is an essential part of making it work better. This can be seen in action in Nottinghamshire, where the co-produced ‘Big Conversation’ has gathered feedback and ideas from people across the region. Making It Real helped to define the different questions they needed to be asking about people’s experiences of care and support. Here’s how.

“In Nottinghamshire, we have been working hard to grow co-production as a way of working across adult social care,” says Sarah, a member of the council’s co-production team. “We co-produced a plan for making this happen, called ‘Better Together’, with people and carers who draw upon social care and support. One of the key elements that people wanted to focus on was creating listening spaces. In particular, they wanted senior leaders out there and listening to people.”

Marion, a member of the Our Voice co-production group, agrees. “Before we did this work, sometimes it felt like the conversations we were having about social care didn’t include all of the people that were needed to be able to really make a difference.”

Members of Our Voice also wanted to involve more people who drew on care and support themselves. Eddie explains, “Those of us in Our Voice already knew who we could talk to if we had a problem or a good idea for adult social care. But people who didn’t do co-production work like this didn’t know where to go.”

Together, staff at the council and members of Our Voice came up with the idea of having a ‘Big Conversation’ about adult social care in Nottinghamshire. This would be based around a series of events, providing opportunities for people to talk openly about their experiences of adult social care and what they thought needed to change. People from across the region would be able to take part, and senior leaders from the council would be there to listen.

With the idea in place, the council put out a request for help to make it happen. Community Catalysts, a group of people who work to unlock the potential of health and social care, were chosen to help.

Building on strong foundations

Angela, from the Community Catalysts team, says, “Both Think Local Act Personal and Social Care Future were already influencing work in Nottinghamshire. Early on, we knew that we wanted to tie things together, rather than reinventing the wheel.” 

Nottinghamshire had already built on learning from City of Doncaster Council and co-designed a local practice framework, which sets out the way Adult Social Care works to support local people. It includes statements from Making It Real, and aligns with the Social Care Future vision. 

Alongside this, the project team explored other statements from Making It Real. Both the practice framework and Making It Real statements helped the team think about what matters to people and to develop the Big Conversation questions to reflect that. 

“We wanted the questions to be open and knew that people weren’t just going to talk about the narrow definition of social care. They were going to talk about what was important to them in their lives. That might also be transport, or housing… and that was ok! The Making It Real statements helped us to come up with our initial questions, and together as a project team, we went through several iterations until we were all happy,” says Angela.

The final questions included, “Is your home adapted and equipped for you to live as you like?”, “do you feel in control of your support?”, “Do you feel connected to the people and places that matter to you?”, and “Is information given to you in a way you can access and understand?” – amongst others. 

People were able to get involved in the Big Conversation in lots of different ways, which the council shared through a communications campaign and explainer video. For example, people could take part by completing a survey, or by attending a listening event or British Sign Language event in their area. They could also get in touch and share what they thought over the phone, or invite someone from Community Catalysts or the council to visit their community group or home for a chat. This all took place over several weeks. In total, 543 people shared their views – 277 unpaid carers, and 265 people who draw upon social care. People came from a wide range of backgrounds and from across Nottinghamshire. 

The Big Conversation has helped Nottinghamshire County Council to build up a far greater depth of knowledge about people’s experiences of social care than they had before. The feedback was turned into a final report. It celebrated what was working well in the region, but also called out what needed improvement. And, crucially, the report was shared both inside and outside the council.

Angela continues, “It was courageous for a local authority to do this. Some people in the area were doing great, and others were really struggling. Sharing everything meant that the council could take a look at what was really happening and then decide what they could do about it.”

Turning insight into actions

Although some council members left Big Conversation events with specific things they needed to address straight away, the focus is on creating long-term, sustainable change at a strategic and systemic level. Alyson, a member of Our Voice, explains, “At the moment, a few of us are in the process of co-producing the new Local Account for adult social care in Nottinghamshire. This is an annual plan that shows what has been happening already as well as the priorities for the year ahead. We are building on what we learned from the Big Conversation and using Making It Real to provide structure. It is so empowering to be co-producing it, rather than just commenting on a strategy written by staff, which is what has happened in the past.”

A dedicated Making It Real forum has been set up which will also hold the council accountable for building on the findings of the Big Conversation. The forum is made up of people who draw upon care and support and carers as well as senior leaders who work in it, and oversees the local plan and progress made against it. The forum will also make sure that people and carers with lived experience of social care can get involved in changes, helping to co-produce solutions that make a positive difference to people.

Building on the results of the Big Conversation means that people who live in Nottinghamshire will see a thread right through from the discussions they have had about their experiences of care and support through to actual change happening in their lives.

People will also have opportunities to shape these changes as they are being developed. People who work at Nottinghamshire County Council have been able to feel the power of the Big Conversation too. Linzi says, “Hearing from people about what they think about adult social care in Nottinghamshire has been invigorating. Getting out there and listening has helped us all remember why we do the jobs we do.”

Learn more about The Big Conversation, and read the reports, on the Nottinghamshire County Council website.

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