SCIE Position paper 7: Common aims: a strategy to support service user involvement in social work education
By Fran Branfield, Peter Beresford and Enid Levin
Published: February 2007
This paper outlines a project commissioned by the Department of Health which focused on participation in the undergraduate and postgraduate social work degree. Focusing on how service user and care organisations can develop their involvement in the undergraduate and post graduate social work degree and drawing on successes of the first two years, the paper then goes on to identify existing barriers to successful partnership and possible ways forward. This project was a joint venture between Shaping Our Lives, Department of Health and SCIE. Key messages
- A national network of service user organisations in social work education should be developed.
- The national grouping should give priority to engaging more diverse groups of service users and carers in qualifying training. This includes people from black and minority ethnic groups and smaller service user groups that are not widely and routinely included.
- National user-controlled organisations should develop this initiative. They should take the lead in building their sector’s capacity to train social workers. They need direct funding for this purpose. This funding should be separate from the funding that universities also need to sustain participation and meet the degree requirements. A national steering committee with strong regional inputs should be set up to develop the arrangements and work programme.
- More training and support for service user trainers should be developed with service user organisations.
- Government should address the benefits issues relating to public participation.
The work of national organisations shows that many universities and their service user and carer partners have made a good start at working together. But progress is patchy and uneven across England. If participation is to be sustained, it is essential that user-controlled organisations have the capacity and resources to make effective contributions. At present, universities mainly decide how participation is organised, leading to a lot of variation in who is involved, how, and at what level.
In this paper we propose a strategy to support the participation of service users and carers in social work education. It focuses on how service user and carer organisations could take the lead in building their capacity for involvement in the undergraduate and postgraduate social work degree.
This position paper is intended for use by all those involved and responsible for service user and carer participation in the social work degree.