SCIE Report 14: Doing it for themselves: participation and black and minority ethnic service users
By Nasa Begum
Published: July 2006
Service user participation in social care has increased markedly in the wider service user movement over the last 20 years. However, the participation of black and minority ethnic service users has diminished over the same period. This report identifies some of the reasons for this reduction and concludes by stating that given the right opportunities, support and resources, there is a genuine commitment and interest from service users to become more actively involved in the process.
- Over the last 20 years, mainstream service user participation in social care has increased markedly whereas black and minority ethnic participation has diminished over the same period.
- Policy-makers and practitioners often consult with black and minority ethnic professionals and community leaders, rather than going direct to service users themselves.
- There is no evidence to suggest that black and minority ethnic service users do not want to participate.
- Social care professionals have an important role to play in facilitating participation.
- Race equality issues must become part of mainstream activities.
- Black and minority ethnic service user participation does work when properly supported.
To promote participation among black and minority ethnic service users, we must:
- acknowledge and address immediate needs and personal circumstances
- build trust and allay people's real fears about getting involved
- have in place the resources and support to enable participation
- make participation real by having clear parameters of power sharing, relevance, and possible outcomes
- identify ways of supporting individual participation as well as collective/group-based participation
- acknowledge that the service user movement cannot represent black and minority ethnic service users unless 'race' equality issues are both part of mainstream activities and the focus of specific projects
- acknowledge that a change in the participation of black and minority ethnic service users is unlikely to happen in a meaningful way while the practice of using black and minority ethnic community 'leaders' and black and minority ethnic professionals as a substitute for service user participation continues.
The government's white paper Improving our health, our care, our say: A new direction for community services starts from the premise that people who use or require social care support are a fundamental resource in their own care and in determining the formulation of future policy and service developments. Service users are regarded as active partners in providing a direction and contribution to the design and delivery of social care resources.
Since the early 1990s service user participation has been central to the reform of public services. It is now relatively unheard of to have policies or service delivery in social care without some reference to involving service users. However, while service user participation in social care has increased markedly in the wider service user movement over the last 20 years, the participation of black and minority ethnic service users has diminished over the same period.
This report looks at some of the reasons for the exclusion of black and minority ethnic service users in participation programmes.
This discussion paper will be of interest to social care organisations, policy makers and service user groups.