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

Meaning and importance of participation

In this section:


The emergence of the service user movement over the past 20-30 years has been one of the most important developments affecting social care policy. Up until this point, social care provision was largely shaped by politicians, managers, academics, planners and practitioners, with service users and citizens generally having little or no say (Beresford, 2001).

Some of the reasons why service users and citizens now have more opportunities to share in decision-making include:


Service users

In this guide, we shall use the same definition of 'service user’ as used by Beresford (2001), while recognising that it has limitations:

The term 'service user’ [is used] as a shorthand…to describe people who receive or are eligible to receive…social care services…without seeking to impose any other meanings or interpretations upon it or them. (Beresford, 2001, pp9-10)

See Practice Examples for the Alzheimer’s Society, Hafal, and the MS Society.


Part of the problem about getting involved is that you see the care organisation as the organisation that [funds] the service…so if you want to speak out you feel quite vulnerable if you are being directly supported by the organisation about which you want to complain or make an observation. (Managers, service user organisations)