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

Practice example 5: The Cedar Foundation

Characteristics of service users involved

Voluntary organisation for people with physical disabilities and acquired and traumatic brain injury in Northern Ireland.

How service user participation within the organisation is ensured

The organisation has an established User Forum. Its aim has been to move involvement from the 'consumerist’ model towards participation at policy level. Members of the Forum are involved in a number of project steering groups. They have taken over evaluation of the residential and supported living units and have shaped recommendations for improvements and future developments.

What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?

The organisation’s 2005-2008 strategy is focused on making sure that involvement is more that just consultation and seeking views, and also includes involvement in policy making not only within the Foundation but in the wider environment. Service users are involved in all public celebrations of achievement and are involved in the recruitment and selection of staff. In addition, one of their key objectives for this year is professional development around disability awareness training. Service users will take a lead role in this.

How are service users supported?

There is a Local Champion in every service setting. This person is usually a member of staff and he or she provides assistance to service users, such as helping in with the production of newsletters or creating space on the website for publishing information on the activities of the Forums. The User Forum has its own budget.

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

The Foundation has a service user charter that outlines the commitment to involvement and against which practice is measured in service user audits. It uses a number of evaluation tools, including SERVQUAL which is an evaluation method developed with the Queen’s University, Belfast that investigates the degree to which service users feel involved in decisions about services. In 2005, the Foundation also invited 'Community Change’ to undertake an evaluation of service user involvement in the Cedar Foundation.

What makes organisations succeed in participation?

A commitment to making it happen is the most important thing in leading an organisation to succeed in user involvement. It is a matter of pride for the Foundation that users are involved. In addition, there are now funding reasons for making a success of participation.

Contact details

Eileen Thomson Malcolm Sinclair House, 31 Ulsterville Avenue, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT9 7AS 028 9066 6188 e.thomson@cedar-foundation.org