Involving service users and carers in social work education
Young Independent People Presenting Educational Entertainment (YIPPEE) and Citizens as Trainers (CATS), 2002 (11) 'How to consult with people who use services (or anyone else, for that matter)'
This is a two-page locally prepared brief that was the result of a day workshop attended by 15 members of the YIPPEE and CATS groups. In summary, it states:
- Treat us as you would any other expert consultants!
- Don’t use isolated individual service users and pretend they are 'representatives’.
- We are much more powerful in groups. Invite 2 or 3 of us so we can support each other.
- Give us good notice, so we can support each other and plan/explain everything fully to our members, put things in our diaries.
- Ensure that the groups you choose are not just white, English speaking, nondisabled … convenience groups.
- Be aware of our transport difficulties.
- Timing of meetings is really important. 9 am or 10 am is too early. How about pm with food?
- Access to buildings: give clear directions, large maps, ensure access for all.
- Let us know, if it is a formal meeting, what the rules are, how long it will be, what the agenda is, when we can have a break.
- Let go of power/all those professional barriers. We are your equals and you are asking for our advice.
- Start off with a Blank Sheet. Let us be alongside you from the start.
- Access to discussion/presentation. If we are deaf, visually impaired etc. • Don’t assume anything about us, we will try hard not to make assumptions about you.
- Offer payment in cash on the day. This should be for our time and expenses. Some of us may need to bring personal assistants and they will need payment too. Don’t forget to offer/pay for child/dependant care so those of us with caring responsibilities can participate.
- Ask us what our needs are … do not be frightened of getting it wrong.
- Use plain language, not jargon…. This excludes us.
- Remember, not everyone is able to read, have different formats, methods.
- Some of us like poetry, drama, drawings.
- Listen to what we say; make it fun, not formal or intimidating; value our views; be open minded; see us as individuals; don’t judge us; don’t get annoyed with us because we seem too 'cocky’.
- Keep in mind that we may take a while to formulate opinions; this does not denote lack of intelligence, but if we have never been asked before, it’s hard, or maybe we lack confidence.
- Have someone take clear, concise notes of our meeting. Some of us might want an audio-tape or someone to ring us with a summary.
- Remember, we are all on the same side. We want to improve services.
CATS and YIPPEE emphasise that:
Access is the first principle of participation.