I am proud to have been involved in Service User and Carer involvement in one way or another for around 40 years or so now. One of the most exciting areas of activity, in my opinion, has been the involvement in professional education and in particular, Social Work courses.
Having a central budget and a requirement for our involvement has made a real difference. Nothing is perfect, but our involvement as Service Users and Carers has really changed Social Work education for the better in my opinion.
I believe that having Service User and Carer involvement from the start teaches students to work in more tailored and personable ways from the beginning, and I am proud to have been involved in this process alongside many others.
I am also involved in the disabled people’s and service user organisation, Shaping Our Lives. You can learn more about this network and find lots of helpful resources at: https://shapingourlives.org.uk.
A downside of Service User and Carer involvement from my point of view, is that it can often feel as though we are taking two steps forward and one step back due to financial cuts in services and regular changes in policy. Such events can set limits to the support available and can make it difficult for Service Users and Carers who are committed to making a difference.
So having covered the positive and the negative, I’d like to share a take-home message to our students:
There is no getting away from it – working in Health and Social Care can be difficult, but at the same time extremely rewarding and impactful. You are capable of making a positive difference to the lives of other people – the lives of people who are ‘up against it’ – sometimes more than you could ever imagine.
So, do the best you can and remember, you are being equipped with professional competencies and skills. If you combine these skills and listen to what Service Users and Carers say to you, then ultimately you are in the best position to assess what course of action will be most helpful.
Believe in yourself, stick by your patient, and never underestimate the importance of your role.
– Professor Peter Beresford OBE
Professor Peter Beresford OBE is a leading figure in the arena of citizen participation and involvement, and perhaps the pre-eminent voice in relation to service user and carer participation in service design, delivery and evaluation. He is currently Professor of Citizen Participation at the University of Essex, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University, Co-Chair of independent user-controlled organisation, think tank and network Shaping Our Lives and a visiting professor at Edge Hill. In 2007 he was awarded his OBE and in 2016, he was named as one of the top 100 influential people in the UK in relation to issues of disability and impairment.