The participation of adult service users, including older people, in developing social care

Conclusion - Different models of participation

Currently there are many different models of participation and what is right for one organisation may not be right for another (Kirby et al., 2003b). The following practice ideas and examples show how different agencies have tried to improve practice and solve problems. In some cases, organisations were run or partly run by service users themselves and participation was seen as one of their main activities. In others, the resources necessary to support greater service user participation were lacking or participation was seen as just one of the many activities taking place in the agency. It was considered important to include relatively large agencies in which service user participation occurred, as part of their broader remit alongside smaller operations for which it was their main area of activity.

The examples below only consist of organisations included in this guide.

User controlled organisations

Service users comprise all, or the majority of, those who manage and control the organisation.

Devolved user controlled organisations

These organisations are part of a larger agency, which has allocated resources and authority to a team with a specific remit to support service user participation within the organisation as a whole.

User-led organisations

Although sharing many similarities with service user controlled organisations in that service users are involved in all areas of decision-making, service users are not necessarily exclusively involved.


These organisations are agencies where the majority of service user involvement is based around consultation.

Statutory agencies

Voluntary agencies

Campaigning and advocacy

These organisations aim to represent the interests of service users and may include service users as members and in decision-making. Some campaigning organisations may also be involved in service provision but these examples focus on their work in providing information and campaigning.



Service providers

These organisations provide a range of services. In these examples, the focus is on ways that service users can be involved in day-to-day decisions.


There are other types of participation outside those found in social care services such as the models of participatory research used in developing countries. There is also increased interest in using the social enterprise (broadly defined as a business trading for a social purpose) model for the delivery of care services (Department of Health, 2007). Finally, community empowerment networks work with Local Strategic Partnerships to help local residents and community groups to become more directly involved in neighbourhood renewal. Learning from these is not just an example of cross fertilisation of ideas but recognises that service users’ ability to participate can be influenced by wider issues, such as access to resources or living in a safe neighbourhood.