Interview: Day Opportunities – City College Peterborough

| Greg Watson

Following our recent case study, we interviewed Pat Carrington, principal of City College in Peterborough, and Julie Bennett,  senior manager of Day Opportunities.

Tell us about what you’ve done:

We co-produced a new service model for the day services for people in Peterborough with learning and physical disabilities. You can read more about what we did here.

Who has been your greatest inspiration or influence?

One of the parent/carers with a son with complex needs; she talked about co-production with her son which turned around the relationship he had with carers so that he was no longer simply a care receiver but some one who was able to contribute to other’s lives. She showed us how and what the opportunities could be including providing jobs for people and the joy formal and informal care providers get from supporting him to do a piece of art.

The best thing about what we’ve done is…

Being with and seeing people who know that they feel part of something; they all have a voice, regardless of the complexity of their needs and it is now so engrained, there is a tangible increase in their confidence. They feel valued and have a say in many areas especially the building as they feel it is theirs.

What has been the biggest or best mistake you have made?

Managing the co-production and making sure that the people around the table represent a wider view and not a personal agenda. We’ve also had to get the pace right and be creative in how we ensure the conversations are inclusive. We’ve used small break out groups, and given each their own task and we’ve made sure we’ve implemented a few quick wins so people immediately felt listened to.

Did anything surprise you during the project?

I thought interest would diminish after 6-9 months but the enthusiasm is far from waning and people are still eager and pleased to keep the co-production going. We expected that we would need to change the meetings to three monthly however they remain very popular, and valuable, and so two years later we are still holding agenda packed meetings on a monthly basis.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of doing something similar?

Make sure the some of the suggestions that arise are things that you’re able to do quickly and feedback quickly – have your easy wins. And communication is key – spend time considering how everyone can be given an opportunity to have their voice heard, especially if they don’t like talking in big groups or need time to go away and think about it. We use the traffic light card system – everyone is given a set – green card for ‘yes I agree’, orange card for ‘slow down’ and red for ‘stop, I want to say something.’

What’s next?

We have started helping the Council by working with communities’ local action groups to help them to co-produce and change the way they do things. And the Day Opportunities is always embracing new activities that the members wish to explore. We are currently updating our buildings so co-production is very much an integrated part in this making sure we are getting it right for the people who will use them.

Where can we find out more?

You can visit our website.

Tell us your favourite quote…

Courage to try – freedom to fail.

Photo by Josh Appel

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