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Our new safeguarding statement and why it’s important

September 26, 2023

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Photo of Richard

Hi I'm Richard a member of Co-Production Collective. In 2022, we as a Collective decided that there was a need to think more directly about safeguarding and come up with ideas for how best we could address safeguarding concerns. We ran a co-creation session that you can read about in our blog from August 2022 and followed this up with individual conversations. We then set up a working group made up of Alice, Laura, Nira and Isaac from our community alongside Niccola and myself (Richard) to work out how we could best do this in practice. We are very grateful for everyone’s contributions to this process. Shared below you will find a video of snippets of some of the stories shared with us and a copy of our Safeguarding Statement.

How we went about developing the statement

From our initial discussions we realised that there was a need to both gather and understand people’s experiences of safeguarding and to set out a safeguarding statement for Co-Production Collective.

Throughout this process people from our community shared their experiences of where safeguarding has been negative and failed within organisations despite them having safeguarding policies in place. This exposed the sad truth that there are organisations currently failing to prevent or respond adequately to abuse, and in some cases the process of safeguarding has added to the abuse. From this we learnt that there is a danger that safeguarding within institutions can be confused, defensive and end up not being safe itself. Some people’s experience has been that by raising a concern or reporting abuse this resulted in them being seen as the problem and becoming fearful of reprisals. We at Co-Production Collective feel that raising concerns should not be an isolating experience but something that is collectively worked through. This was strongly felt by the safeguarding working group and formed the backbone for why we came up with what we did.

In February 2023 Isaac Samuels wrote a really helpful blog ‘Why is safeguarding so important?’ that introduced the work being done on safeguarding by the Collective.

Gathering people's experiences

Isaac is currently using a Community Reporting approach to gather and curate people’s experiences and understanding of safeguarding and will be continuing to do in the coming months, if you have an experience you would like to share, please let us know by emailing

  • The stories we gathered: we invite you to watch our short video showcasing some of the experiences shared so far.

In addition, to the discussions that took place about safeguarding the working group also received relevant feedback from the Co-Production Collective End of Year Survey that contributed to our understanding of the community’s needs. Some of the group also attended Co-Pro Cuppa sessions that provided a constant reminder of the realities of working and being part of co-production at a times discussed safeguarding directly. We are also grateful to Dr Sarah Carr and colleagues for an early look at their work on Avoidable Harm in Mental Health Social Care.

Our safeguarding Statement

We have created a two-side quick reference summary of key points followed by a more detailed statement. We recommend that everyone involved in Co-Production Collective community reads both. These documents will also form part of the new introductory pack Co-Production Collective are putting together for all co-producers that we hope to launch as part of the 3rd Birthday Celebrations on 31 October. Please feel free to share our Safeguarding Statement or make use of it in other spaces if you want to and if you do please credit us.

We hope you find the summary and full statement easy to access but please let us know if there is anything you would like clarified. These documents are intended as a core description of Co-Production Collective’s approach to safeguarding. We have had several creative ideas on how these may be further expressed using animation, video studies and more which we hope to revisit in the future. How this new Safeguarding Statement is presented, integrated into other work of the Collective and further developed will be carried forward by use of the collected descriptions of people’s lived experience of safeguarding concerns. The aim of these documents and further co-creation work to be done on this is for people involved in co–production can be and feel safe. There will be future invitations to contribute to this on-going work.

We have used the title ‘Safeguarding Statement‘ rather than policy – partly to manage the relationship and the authority of UCL’s (University College London’s), safeguarding policies but also to include some issues that are particular to co-production working but are not (yet) recognised in existing safeguarding work.

Getting the balance of how to effectively challenge, correct or escalate safeguarding concerns needs collective understanding and consideration. We all get our language wrong at times realising that, apologising and learning is part of co- production. So, our statement does include a reporting system to ensure that there is a route to review and examine how we are learning and developing. For this reporting system to work for the Collective it will be important that reporting identifies success as well as matters that require attention.

Two points that are worth emphasising:

  • Safe is not something separate of our work – it is and must be part of how we work.
  • As with all aspects of co-production we feel that how safeguarding is thought of and used needs to be developed.

Further key points to mention

Below we have outlined some of the points that have emerged through this process as we thought you might find them useful as well.

The key points are:

  • Co-production has huge benefits however there are risks. These have recently described by Amy Wells in a piece titled ‘I don’t want a seat at your table’ for The National Survivor Network August 23. In her blog she shares her experience of taking part in co-production as a person with lived experience saying, ‘It is work that can become unsafe, extractive, exploitative and exhausting, with a deep emotional toll.’ Linking these words to another blog on Oxford Universities Urban Transformations website about ‘Methodological Issues and emotional labour in co-produced research’ and going on to say why she feels this.
  • Safeguarding cannot be effective if it is treated as a separate or isolated process it must be integrated with how we work.
  • Creating safe environments for co-production cannot be a fixed or narrowly defined set of rules it must be part of the way people work together and must be tailored to each situation by those involved.
  • Being understanding and supportive of one another is great BUT without the skills to respond this is not enough. What we need to understand is what and how to respond to any concerns raised. This is best worked out with people and the groups we are part of.
  • It is not a good idea to attempt to draw a hard fixed line between things that are matters for safeguarding and those that are not.  What can happen is that people’s experience gets lost in abstract discussions. Some things are very clearly abuse or unsafe and these are detailed in the Safeguarding Statement. However, what we want and need for co–production is a shared feeling of being safe. This requires thought and discussion to anticipate harm and to plan to avoid it.
  • Sometimes dismissal of a person’s view or contribution can happen accidentally in a rushed group conversation or session where time is tight, and this can result in someone feeling unheard. At other times this dismissal can feel more deliberate because the ideas given by those contributing to the conversation do not fit with a facilitator or researcher’s view of what they want. As a result, participants are left feeling they have given the ‘wrong answer’ or have not fully understood the matter.  In some cases, this has been shown to be an intolerance of diversity of thought and participants have felt they have been put down in a patronising manner which results in them feeling devalued.
  • Co-Production Collective values are an important expression of the organisation, but they must be managed, and progress monitored to be effective.  If not, they can be misused by those who talk about inclusivity but are not inclusive. On occasion people hide behind values. For example, prefacing a discriminatory statement with a repetition of a value that is then ignored. Challenging such behaviour requires not only responding to the discriminatory statement but also questioning the persons honesty or understanding in claiming to be following the values.
  • The belittling or dismissing of a person’s concerns in ways that avoids any challenge. For example, using the chat function on Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls to make a statement or express a view that is not part of the open discussion either publicly or worse privately.
  • Apparent closed mindedness. A lack of willingness of a participant to hear other views and then learn or maybe re-evaluate own views. Probably a fundamental of successful co-production? Might not be a safeguarding issue but certainly a complex matter to deal within group.

Interested in getting involved?

If you any feedback on this blog and/and or the accompanying summary and policy and/or would have any experiences, you would like to share with us about your experiences both negative and positive in relation to safeguarding within co-production please email

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