Co-production is Key to Designing Successful Health and Employment interventions

I was very pleased to read the report from the WCPP and the Institute for Employment Studies which examined how health and employability outcomes could be improved by changing the way in which organisations work together. This is a very timely report as health problems are one of the most significant reasons for people not working in Wales, with mental health issues and musculoskeletal diseases being the main contributors. However, the evidence shows that being in work can often benefit people suffering from these problems, but work should be managed with care and attention to help people lead the active lives they desire.

In fairness to the Welsh Government, Wales has been ahead of the curve in the UK in focussing on health and employment, but previous solutions were often imposed from the top down, and design and implementation was not seen as of such high importance. The consequence of this was that programmes such as the Fit Note and the Work Programme did not fulfil their potential.  I therefore fully support the main conclusions of the report which emphasise the importance of co-production, multi-agency partnerships and fidelity when designing and implementing interventions with health and employment professionals.

This early involvement and co-production is far more likely to lead to successful implementation as professionals will feel part of the solution. Health and employment professionals need to be engaged at all stages of the process, from identifying the issues, exploring the evidence, developing the interventions and, importantly, implementing the practice. But this also needs to be recognised as part of their role and not just simply additional responsibility. It is only through this co-produced partnership approach, that is based on evidence of what works that we will close the gap between policy and delivery in this area and actually make a real impact on what is a complex and multifaceted issue that has impacted heavily on Wales for far too long. I therefore hope that the findings of this report are reflected in the upcoming employability plan for Wales and that actions in Wales can help build more evidence around what works in this field.