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

Practice example 10: Leonard Cheshire

Characteristics of service users involved

Leonard Cheshire is a voluntary organisation providing services to people with disabilities across the United Kingdom. The Service User Support Team supports service user involvement within the organisation.

How service user participation within the organisation is ensured

The Service User Support Team is a team of disabled people who work as one-to-one mentors, as well as providing training opportunities and information. Around £1m per year is allocated to service user involvement, including the costs of running the team and support costs for service users coming to meetings.

There is a Central Committee of service users elected by the constituency of service users. They work at national level to influence Trustees (the Chair is a User Trustee).

What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?

The work at Leonard Cheshire has been mostly bottom up, though a formal policy is now being developed, partly written by service users. This will be linked to a users’ charter saying what standards service users can expect within their service in relation to participation and an accompanying set of guideline standards for staff.

How are service users supported?

Service users receive considerable support in relation to training, peer support and financial help in getting together. It is important that this is independent of their service, as they may be afraid to speak out in front of the manager.

How are the effects of participation monitored, audited, and evaluated?

In evaluating the service, Leonard Cheshire has a service audit scheme which visits the service once every four years and service users are part of the team who visit. An external evaluation on user involvement has been completed by a team based at Northumbria University. A set of standards for participation is currently being drawn up and this will form the basis for evaluating progress in the future.

What makes organisations succeed in participation?

Managers cannot just decide on a policy and implement it like any other - it is a hearts and minds thing and needs a culture change. There needs to be a lead from the top, lots of training for staff and lots of independent support and training for the service users.

Contact details

Clare Evans MBESt Georges, Semington, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 6JQ 01380 870777