Involving service users and carers in social work education
Because working out and signing up to the values and principles of involvement early in the process of forging partnerships is very important, we offer some suggestions here.
Taken together, the values of service user organisations and of social work provide a firm foundation on which to build a framework for participation that is respectful and meaningful rather than tokenistic.
The service user movement emphasises the importance of models of participation that are based on human rights, equalities, inclusion and the social model of disability. Their approaches seek to empower people and counter oppressive and discriminatory practice. There is overlap between the values of service user-controlled organisations and those of social work and social care. Thus the values of social work and social care include the right to respect, privacy and confidentiality, the right to choose, the promotion of independence and treating each person as an individual. The 'Code of practice for social care workers' provides the most recent and clear statement of these values, setting out in detail the conduct that is expected of these workers (4). In a recent paper on getting closer to other people's direct experiences, Beresford (5) includes a list of approaches, emphasising that they should not be seen as mechanistic 'techniques' but rather as a set of value-based principles.
For over 10 years, pioneering individuals and organisations in the service user movement have been developing the principles for putting their values into practice. They are spelt out in the many publications, including reports of projects, conferences and focus groups that are referenced here and elsewhere in the guide (6-12). Across service user-controlled organisations, there is strong agreement about what these principles are and what they cover.
Each university and college should work with their partners to develop a 'written protocol of values, principles and practices' that is then owned and signed up to by all parties. Some examples on which to build are summarised here. The overlaps in their content emphasise the consensus about the core set of principles and issues. Th ese examples might be used to check whether local agreements are comprehensive but their content should not be imported wholesale or imposed without thorough discussion and agreement. Developing a local protocol is part of the process of building up trust, respect, and purposeful working relationships. When the degree programme is running, the local protocol can be used to monitor and evaluate progress.