Involving service users and carers in social work education
Michael Turner and Shaping Our Lives National User Network, 2002 (9) 'Guidelines for involving service users in social work education'
These guidelines are presented in four sections that are summarised here.
Section 1 covers the key concerns of service users on current practice that were raised at a Shaping Our Lives National User Network seminar in 2000. The issues, based on the direct experience of service users, including poor practice, "pointed the way to the positive principles that should underlie best practice user involvement”.
Section 2 sets out four principles of best practice involvement. Only extracts from the text on each principle are included here. The principles are:
- Involvement should be planned and structured: it must be based on a true partnership between academics and service users and other stakeholders. It needs to be a key part of the overall planning of a course and curriculum. [continues….]
- Involvement should be based on work with organisations that are controlled and run by service users: user involvement is too often based on the participation of an individual or individuals…. Working through organisations provides the basis for broader involvement that is facilitated by people who are better placed to represent a range of service users’ perspectives…. Another issue to consider when contacting organisations is that service users stress the importance of users’ concerns being distinct from those of carers.
- Fees and expenses: the expertise of service users involved in training should be fully recognised…. The payment of fees is a means of recognising the value and importance of users’ contributions and as supporting the parity of users’ input with that of paid staff. Rates of payment should reflect the skills and experiences of people involved and should be comparable to those paid to other consultants.
- Access to training: good practice also needs to address making all education and training opportunities accessible to all service users as both students and teachers/ trainers. Having social work students who are service users should not be seen or used as a means of service user involvement…. Their presence should be seen as a bonus and they should not be exploited or relied upon (for achieving involvement).
Section 3 focuses on putting service user involvement into practice. It covers getting started, planning, ensuring access, and resources.
Section 4 gives examples of good practice, including the work of the Wiltshire and Swindon Users’ Network with the University of Bath on the Diploma in Social Work course.