Co-producing a film about Direct Payments - how we did it and what we learnt.

Like many good ideas it started during a chat over a cup of coffee. We already had experience of successfully coproducing our Opportunities Fair - a successful annual event. Now we'd been tasked with engaging the public in understanding the Directorate's vision for how adult social care would be provided.

A key theme of this vision was to have Direct Payments as the default option for people needing social care support. We were acutely aware that there was lots of negativity about direct payments from some staff and citizens; historically we had not performed well on Direct Payments. Ove many years the difficulties of direct payments have taken on the proportions of a mythical monster! We were also aware that many other people have simply never heard of them! The challenge was to make a film that was engaging for a wide range of people and that would support social workers with their duty to offer Direct Payments. We particularly wanted something that would help young adults in transition consider whether a Direct Payment was right for them.

At this point I should probably tell you that we wrote a, "project initiation document", but that would be untrue! This was an occasion where my colleagues' talent for not getting bogged down in bureaucracy paid off. Following discussion with my manager the bid for the film was written and put onto an online procurement website. We used a Council template for the film bid. We got this far without involving any citizens, so I make no claims that this part of the process was co-produced. One of the key things we have learnt about co-production is that you need to be realistic and selective about what can be done. I am helped by a phrase that my colleague, Viv, brings from her Person Centred Planning background, which is to, "focus on what is positive and possible".

Involving citizens

The first part of the co-production process was the selection of the film company. We used the Opportunities Facebook page to recruit service users who wanted to help with this. Two people with learning disability came forward and another who is physically disabled and uses a direct payment. So, the selection team was made up of these three individuals, a Council procurement expert, our manager, Viv and I. The first task was to devise a selection process that was Council compliant, accessible and would allow us to score each bid. Viv held an additional meeting to support team members who needed this One of the selection criteria was how well they could work in co-production.

The second step, in partnership with the successful film company, was to create a larger co-production team that could advise on the script and provide feedback on the film. We invited a local college that ran a performing arts course for disabled students to be part of this. It was crucial that we got our Assessment and Support Planning service to engage with this project. We needed their expertise and wanted them to feel ownership of this film which would assist them in their work with people who use services. This process started with a workshop where we discussed the script The workshop was made accessible by using graphic facilitation and planning tools from person centred planning The film company offered opportunities for everyone to act in the film and to work behind the camera.

The company developed excellent relationships with the college and its students and gave training on the technical aspects of film editing.

What has happened since the film was made?

We will be showing the film as part of consultation meetings in June and July 2015 planned for citizens, providers and staff. Besides informing viewers about direct payments, we want to find out if there is public support for increasing the take-up of direct payments instead of more traditional care provision. The film will help ensure everyone in the room has same basic understanding of what a direct payment is before they comment on our proposals. Details of the consultation can be read in our report My life, my care, my money -Improving Direct Payment use in adult social care in Birmingham.

Positive consequences of coproducing a film about direct payments

I have just responded to an email from an artist who runs groups for disabled people and is linked to a local resident organisation. I don't know her or how she came across the film but she is asking on behalf of clients what Direct Payments can be used for. Other parts of the Council's social care, including children's services are interested in making a film so we are able to share the learning.

I think one of the positive by-products of coproduction is the trust and good working relationships that are built across the divides of paid workers and citizen volunteers. The benefits of which are difficult to measure; sometimes you don't know about the good stuff that's happening and sometimes you plant a seed that bears fruit much later.

The other smart bit about co-producing a film to promote direct payments is that the network of people involved promote if for you; they are proud of their contribution and want to share it with others.

Longer version of Birmingham Local Authority Direct Payments film. (opens new window)


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