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


In this section:



Since 2004, I have gone from being a service user to the secretary on the User Forum and now working for [the organisation] as an independent facilitator…I work for eight hours a week. I get paid for those hours, and I get my benefits on top of that. I have a team of people here who support me through everything that I do…I have four support workers. If I want to work 12 hours a day, they will support me for 12 hours a day. If I get too tired and I want to go home, I can work from home. I am supplied with an office, a computer, and a laptop. I also get a travel allowance and so does everyone else on the Forum. (Worker in voluntary organisation)

Even when an organisation is actively committed to participation, its attempts may fail if the right structures are not in place. Simmons and Birchall (2005) suggest that one way of looking at participation is to see it as a chain whereby each link must be made as strong as possible (see below).

Participation chain

Graphic showing the Participation chain - consisting of three boxes (motivations, resources and mobilization) linked by solid lines, all three of which link with dashed lines to another box (dynamics).

(Simmons & Birchall, 2005, p278)

Simmons and Birchall also argue that the chain metaphor highlights the need for all the links to be joined together as each depends upon the other. For example, there is little point in training people in participation skills without providing them with opportunities to use them.

However, there are powerful factors that act as barriers to participation, thereby weakening the participation chain. These may be grouped under the following themes:

The next section describes the ways in which attempts have been made to try and overcome some of the barriers described above.