Involving service users and carers in social work education
Key messages for the future
- The involvement of service users and carers in the design and delivery of the social work degree offers a major opportunity for a new generation of social workers to gain a thorough grounding in service users’ and carers’ experiences and expectations from the very start of their training and careers.
- Many universities and colleges that are offering the degree programme in England in 2003, together with their allies in service user and carer organisations, have made a good start at working together but progress is uneven across the country and the specific aspects of the programmes.
- In order that this initiative may fully realise its potential to make a difference to social work training, priority should be attached to building up the capacity of both service user and carer organisations and the degree programme providers so that they can work together in constructive and purposive partnerships. There is a call for continuing ring-fenced funding to facilitate this development.
- Training for service user and carer trainers is high on the agenda of their organisations. Different types and levels of training should be offered. There is scope for service user and carer organisations to develop their own training and support systems, and for national bodies to develop accredited training leading to qualifications.
- The payment of service users for their time and expertise is proving to be a challenging and complicated area. The benefits rules may hinder the involvement of some groups of service users. Practice is variable across higher education and some guidance is required.
- Codes of practice on service user and carer participation have been suggested as one of the means to promote consistency, fair treatment, and good quality processes and outcomes for everyone involved.
- As the arrangements for involvement are not prescribed, a wide variety of approaches to the same activities are emerging. Each social work education programme needs to have robust systems in place for monitoring and evaluating their arrangements for involvement. Comparative studies are required to evaluate their relative effectiveness in terms of processes and outcomes.