People with lived experience of not having enough money urge for more involvement in shaping government policy



A group of people with experience of not having enough money to live on are urging the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to co-produce future policies with experts by lived experience this National Co-Production Week (6-10 July).

The lived experts calling for this change have been working with national charity Turn2us, helping to shape and design the organisations services. They are proposing the DWP adopt the following three recommendations to better serve all who need to access social security:

  1. Commit to involving lived experts in the design and delivery of their work
  2. Actively encourage job applications from people who have experienced the social security system
  3. Create a public channel where people can give feedback and the DWP are held accountable to that feedback

Karen Isaac, lived expert and charity volunteer, comments: “I feel very strongly that the DWP should co-produce our welfare state. My experience of co-production has been a very positive one. It has enabled me to feel useful, be part of a team, to get my brain working again, especially at the age of 62. I also feel I am actually listened to and have something very important to share, due to my lived experience.

“I now really feel that Turn2us understands how people who have experienced not having enough money to live on feel and what they need to do to move forward due to their co-production work, which I help with, as I myself am on Universal Credit.”

Abby Meadows, co-production officer at Turn2us, adds: “While the DWP, and other government departments, often consult with the public on future policies, they rarely go to the full extent of genuine, meaningful co-production. This way of working offers the chance to transform social and economic policy-making to a model that offers people real power and makes services more effective.

“People who use Government services have the greatest stake in its effectiveness. Therefore, from the initial stages, it is critical they are involved in designing, commissioning and delivering those services moving forward.

“Co-production has transformed the way we work at Turn2us, and we are so much richer for it – more confident that our tools and services are having a greater impact on people who face financial hardship.”

Charline Thompson, lived expert and charity volunteer, concludes: “The welfare state is for the general public. In order for lessons to be learnt and to make the service better for the users, co-production needs to be an option. Service users giving their personal experience, good and bad, would benefit the system.

“I’ve had a positive experience of co-production with Turn2us. I feel that I am able to support and make a positive change to people’s lives. Co-production has made me feel like my voice is heard to improve what is currently available. Being involved with co-production has been very refreshing to see a charity use service-users in order to make a service better. The people involved generally all strive for the same cause, to make something better and change.”

‘Co-production’ involves working in equal partnership with people who use public sector or charity sector services. Turn2us involves people in many aspects of the design and delivery of its services. This includes working with people who are in receipt of benefits to redesign our Benefits Calculator as well co-producing decisions around policy priorities, website content, and the hiring of new staff members.

National co-production week celebrates the benefits of co-production, raises awareness of good practice and highlights the contribution of people who uses services in developing better public services.

The government U-turn on it’s free school meals voucher system was prompted by a plea made by footballer, FareShare partner and lived expert, Marcus Rashford. This policy recommendation from a prominent lived expert now ensures an estimated 1.3 million pupils in England no longer face the prospect of going hungry this summer. His campaign was successful not just due to his public profile but because he spoke from his own lived experience and amplified the worries of thousands of struggling parents.

To find out what co-production is, watch this short video: