The second annual Co-production Week and Festival. From 3 July 2017. Co-production / noun / "Working with people who receive care, and their carers, as consultants when designing, delivering and monitoring services." "Nothing about us without us" #coproweek
Co-production Week 2017
Sunday, 30 April 2017
Co-production and rugby union. Did we give the ball back?
By Steve Palmer. Communications manager at #coproweek organisers SCIE - and father to Stanley
Yesterday my son was cheered by 10,000 people. Let me explain. Stan has Down's Syndrome and goes to Saracens once a week; not to play rugby but to do cheerleading. So on the last home game of the season Stan and two other young men (who go to the club and play rugby) were asked to come and hand out hampers to the people in the boxes and to give speeches to the banqueting tables. We explained to fans what the Saracens Sport Foundation does in the community. The three young men also took the ball on the pitch before the game kicked off.
Keeping the teams waiting
So I got to say the same thing to fans eight times and on each occasion I honed it. By the end I was putting together something more-or-less coherent and it goes like this:
Not just doing us a favour
I sometimes get irked when I see that a person with Down's or another learning disability has scored a touchdown or done something endearing like dance along to a busker. Not because they're doing it; all power to them. No - I get disappointed because the press report it as if it's some amazing event and often say it's 'heartwarming' and 'inspirational' when the person involved couldn't care less whether it is.
So I told the Saracens fans, as they tucked into lunch, that Stan, Mark and Ollie weren't speaking to them and taking the ball on the pitch because someone was doing them a favour. They weren't the recipients of some kindly act because they suffer so much in their lives. That's an old-fashioned and patronising take on this kind of thing.
It's a relationship
No. I told the rugby fans that in the same way that Saracens are putting something back into the community, Stan, Mark and Ollie are doing so likewise. It's a symbiotic relationship that I know Saracens Sport Foundation 'gets'. The fans yesterday met three young men who are great advocates for showing that people with learning disabilities have so much to contribute; by playing sport, by learning dance moves; by teaching tolerance and understanding; and by standing up and telling people about it. So they weren't there to make up the numbers in a condescending way. They were there to be part of a success story.