Involving service users and carers in social work education

The process and practicalities

This part of the guide covers the main issues that need to be considered in preparing for involvement in the social work degree. It is based on the responses of social work academic staff to our initial request for information, on discussions and workshops that included service users and carers, and on further information that was provided as planning work gathered momentum in the summer of 2003. About half those contacted (36) responded quickly to our request by email, post or telephone. Most of this group provided full and enthusiastic accounts of their plans and achievements, albeit at different stages. Others were unable to share their plans immediately but contributed once they were in a position to do so.

The scope of information spans the number and type of organisations, service users and carers directly involved; their work together on selecting students and designing the degree; their plans for developing service user and carer roles in all aspects of the degree; and their arrangements for paying participants. It also covers the gaps in their arrangements and views on the most challenging aspects of the development and the levers for promoting and sustaining effective participation. Some examples from this self-reported material are included here.

Many of the activities described here take place in parallel with each other and their time-scales overlap.

The first steps towards service user and carer involvement include: securing resources; deciding who will take the initiative forward; defining service users and carers; thinking about the meaning and level of involvement; planning training and support; addressing the payment issues; identifying, approaching, and bringing together potential partners.