Giving a voice to the vulnerable

Researchers have assessed how codesign was used in a project that gave voice to people sleeping rough

People who sleep rough are some of the most vulnerable members of our community, but their voices are rarely heard when strategies and interventions are planned “for” them.

Researchers from the Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing collaborated with community health service and industry partner, cohealth, to assess the way codesign was used in a project that gave voice to people sleeping rough.

“Codesign is frequently used in health service and program design and, more and more, in research, but vulnerable people are often excluded,” says Professor Virginia Lewis, cohealth/La Trobe Research Chair in Community Health. “We looked at how this project succeeded in enabling people sleeping rough to make a meaningful contribution to hear what the issues are and find solutions that will make a difference.”

Following a survey administered by peer workers, eleven people who were sleeping rough were selected from a large number of applicants to attend 12 weekly meetings. cohealth staff supported the working group to review the survey responses to better understand issues and identify potential solutions to problems faced by people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s CBD. The group then worked to produce the “Need to Know” news sheet and website.

The evaluation showed that the success of the codesign process lay in selecting people who were willing to commit to the group, clarifying expectations at every point, and making participation rewarding (both by paying participants, but also socially and emotionally).

The skills of the cohealth facilitators (a social worker and peer worker) contributed greatly to the success of the project.

“Our evaluation demonstrates that people who are considered vulnerable because of their social circumstances can be empowered by being involved in true codesign, as long as there is sufficient time, skill and support,” says Lewis.

“Through AIPCA’s relationship with cohealth, we will continue to undertake research that focuses on equity of access to healthcare and improved health and wellbeing.”

Read the paper or view the website.

For more information about the work cohealth does with people experiencing homelessness and insecure housing on their website.

Find out more about the School of Nursing and Midwifery on their website.