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

Practice example 21: Values Into Action

Characteristics of service users involved

Values Into Action (VIA) is the UK-wide campaigning voluntary organisation for people with learning difficulties.

How service user participation within the organisation is ensured

Values Into Action does not itself provide any services, rather it is a campaigning organisation through research and development, with the objectives of promoting the rights of people with learning difficulties and improving the quality of service provision.

People with learning difficulties are involved throughout VIA, including one of the co-chairs, the vice-chair, other trustees, and two members of staff.

In undertaking its research and development work, VIA involves people with learning difficulties, often by means of an advisory group set up with the particular project in mind.

What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?

Values Into Action does not operate a quota system in any part of its work or organisation because the emphasis is on inclusivity, and the notion that there should be a certain number of people with learning difficulties would involve labelling people. However, it would be unsatisfactory not to have any people with learning difficulties on the board, for example there is a continual process in VIA of looking for new Board members including people with learning difficulties.

How are service users supported?

There is an established practice of trustees supporting each other, for example, going through issues before meetings as well as general psychological support.

Values Into Action has also recruited dedicated support workers for staff members with learning difficulties. People with learning difficulties on advisory groups are offered an honorarium. Reasonable expenses are paid.

How are the effects of participation monitored, audited, and evaluated?

Appraisal takes place routinely at board level. The board will look carefully at the methodology of projects, the way they are being carried out, ensuring that proper account is being taken of the involvement and contribution of people with learning difficulties. This is reported on by project workers to the board and it also forms part of the Chief Executive’s regular report to the board.

What makes organisations succeed in participation?

Two factors are important: determination to make it work and flexibility. Time-honoured practices may have to relinquished. For example, at VIA, the board will often split into groups during its meetings to discuss issues and then re-form, because a lot of the members find it hard to discuss complex issues in a large group but find a small group easier. Organisations need to take responsibility to change themselves in respect of user involvement rather than expecting outsiders to do it for them.

Contact details

Jean Collins Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London, E2 6HG 020 7729 5436 general@viauk.org