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On Wednesday night, Pam and Dawn went to the National Advocacy Awards, where My Life My Choice picked up the award for Best Co-Production.

There are loads of organisations doing some fantastic co-production work. But to give you an idea of how we do it, here is what we wrote on the award nomination form…

Co-Production at My Life My Choice

My Life My Choice is a self-advocacy organisation for adults with learning disabilities in Oxfordshire. For almost 18 years we have successfully raised the voices and profile of the learning disabled community – a group who do not often get heard. We have recently been awarded Oxfordshire Charity of the Year 2016 in recognition of our achievements.

As an independent, user-led charity co-production is at the core of our work, ethics, & values. The charity’s projects are run by and for people with learning disabilities and all the Trustees, annually elected by the membership, have learning disabilities. As users and beneficiaries of the charity our trustees with learning disabilities provide crucial insights, strong personal motivation, lived experience and often profoundly relevant perspectives that conventional boards of trustees often lack. Our trustees know what it is like to receive poor health care, the frustration and loneliness of worklessness, and the injustice of being stigmatised.

The Trustees, who meet quarterly, make the key decisions, and decide upon the strategic direction of the charity. Three Trustees form the “Jobs and Money” team and meet weekly with the Charity Coordinator to direct him on operational matters, to help him plan projects, and to review performance. At our regular “Think Tank” days members and potential new service users review past performance and then advise the Trustees on future plans.

The charity holds 11 monthly self-advocacy groups for 145 members around Oxfordshire; the collective voice of these group members, through talking about their challenges/ experiences helps to inform the Trustees about what the charity should be doing, and what it should campaign about in order to meet their needs.

Over the past few years we have run co-produced campaigns about benefits (which lead to the user-led film “I Am Not A Scrounger”), equal access to healthcare (including playing a role in the “Justice for LB” campaign), and employment.

We are working to support people with learning disabilities to be involved in designing and monitoring provision. Two of our members act as experts by experience on Oxfordshire’s Transforming Care Board. Three of our members are using their lived experiences to influence NICE Guidelines, sitting on two different Guideline Committees – “People with learning disabilities and challenging behaviours: Guide for services” and “Care and support of older people with learning disabilities.”

As part of our Quality Checkers project, people with learning disabilities and family carers inspect services for Oxfordshire County Council. We were invited to take on this work as a result of our campaigning and advocacy. In partnership with Choice Support, we employ our members to take part in Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections as experts by experience.

Other co-produced activities include a monthly nightclub for 150 people and a monthly self-advocacy radio show led by DJs with learning disabilities that has over 350 listeners.

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