CAG Consultants have used the co-creation process to inform South East Water’s Vulnerability Strategy.
All water companies are required by Ofwat to produce a Vulnerability Strategy as part of their 2020 – 2025 Business Plan. South East Water’s Vulnerability Strategy is intended to ensure that customers in vulnerable circumstances have full access to their services both now and in to the future.
CAG Consultants were contracted in January 2018 to facilitate the co-creation process which will ultimately inform the strategy.
Co-creation is a form of open policy or strategy development where those implicated by the outcome are directly involved in its creation. It draws on a range of perspectives of key stakeholders in order to inform the process, and ultimately design and create the ‘product’ (in this case the vulnerability strategy). It focusses on customer experience and interactive relationships and allows for a more active involvement of key stakeholders, with a view to reaching a mutually valued outcome. Co-creation blends the ideas of key stakeholders (both end users of the product and other relevant parties) to create new ideas for the organisation, exploring both the existing challenges and the potential solutions.
The intention is that this approach will ensure that the actions listed in the Vulnerability Strategy are targeted, effective, efficient and realistic. Furthermore, this approach means that the correct processes and relationships are in place to continuously review the strategy and ensure it remains fit for purpose for future customers who may find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.
We employed a range of methods, including focus groups, telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews and stakeholder workshops to engage representatives from the following categories of stakeholders:
- Staff from the Customer Care Team (who work directly with customers in vulnerable circumstances)
- Customers in vulnerable circumstances
- Customers in vulnerable circumstances that were affected by the water outage in February/March 2018
- A broad range of agencies that work with people in vulnerable circumstances
In addition to this we worked closely with key senior staff at South East Water and their Customer Challenge Group in order to ensure that the final strategy is credible and fit for purpose.
We worked with the stakeholders over a 6 month period to gain a better understanding of:
- The meaning of vulnerability and how it affects peoples’ lives in relation to water;
- What is working well in relation to South East Water services;
- Gaps in South East Water’s current services;
- The key issues in terms of providing water services to vulnerable people; and
- Potential solutions to best serve the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances, now and into the future.
As a result of this work we have created a set of recommendations for the Vulnerability Strategy, which are based on the actual needs of the customers and effective, plausible solutions. By choosing to employ co-creation to inform their Vulnerability Strategy, South East Water are able to produce a meaningful strategy that delivers the right services to the right customers at the right time, both now and in to the future.
The Vulnerability Strategy will be completed and submitted to Ofwat by the beginning of September 2018.