Working with Public Health in Sheffield to hear from people living with some of the most challenging circumstances in the city

The beginning

Sheffield City Council (SCC) approached Co:Create to help reach people living with ‘multiple and complex needs’. “Who do we mean when we talk about people living with multiple and complex needs?” was the first question we asked.  The answer was that this is a group of 300-400 people across Sheffield who are known to three or more of the following services: Homeless/Housing Independence Services, Substance Misuse Services, Offender/Criminal Justice Services and Mental Health Services/Adult Social Care.

SCC were really keen to design a service that would genuinely meet the needs of those with challenging circumstances. SCC also knew that to do this would mean using techniques that actively engaged those who may not be used to being involved in designing the services that would benefit them.

The prep

So Co:Create could meet people that SCC wanted to reach in safe spaces familiar to them, we identified current service providers who had contact with people with challenging circumstances. These were Shelter, the Cathedral Archer Project, TASC (Target Action Safer Communities), 9-11 at South Yorkshire Housing Association and St. Wilfrid’s Centre. This meant Co:Create could identify key locations in the City  to meet with people.

The work

In collaboration with these service providers Co:Create designed sessions that would enable people to contribute to designing what a multi-disciplinary team could look like. We asked customers the following questions:

·         What would you change about the current services?

·         What helps you access services?

·         What stops you from accessing services?

·         What factors make a good service?

It became clear that speaking to people on a one to one basis worked best, as this meant they felt comfortable and contributed freely.

Another approach that was extremely successful was when Justine, our volunteer, drew participants whilst also talking to them. This proved to act as a displacement activity and the interviews where this was used proved the most fruitful - with really good quality contributions from people. It also meant that Co:Create were able to provide a great thank you in the form of a portrait.

The result

Co:Create were privileged to speak to over 46  people and there emerged 8 clear themes from the data and stories that were collated.

·         ‘I don’t want to have to re-tell my story’

·         ‘I want there to be better communication between services’

·         ‘I want to have personalized support’

·         ‘I want to feel like I’m listened to’

·         ‘I want to feel respected and safe’

·         ‘I want to have services which are accessible’

·         ‘I want to have a support network’

·         ‘I want to know where to get support’


From the majority of the 46 people that Co:Create had conversations with, there was overwhelming support for a multi disciplinary service to work to support them. Co:Create fed this back to SCC’s steering group. Because of Co:Create’s ability to capture the views and opinions of people, the plan for a multi agency team was approved and it is now for SCC Cabinet to make a decision. If Cabinet decides to approve the service, then SCC is committed to working with potential users of the service to design it. This is a great example of people ‘co-producing’ the design of services with those commissioning them.

‘Co:Create have raised people’s expectations and shown that commissioners don’t have to do everything, they can let go a bit. Co:Create also showed that there is nothing really to fear from talking to customers. It was also good to show the benefit of going beyond normal customer feedback and surveys to get that more granular detail and for customers to express feedback in their own words.’ – Sheffield City Council’s Health Improvement Principal

Emma Ward