Service User and Carer Involvement in the University of Worcester.
The involvement of people with lived experience (PWLE), has become increasingly important in the health and social care landscape over recent years as the value of learning from the people who use services has become increasingly recognised and valued
The University of Worcester involved people with lived experience in its social work and nursing training for some years before such practice became a formal requirement within higher education. The University of Worcester formed its own interest group of service users and carers known as 'IMPACT’, who have consolidated their presence across teaching and learning, recruitment and selection, assessment activity, research, and consultancy within the School of Allied Health and Community, The Three Counties School of Nursing and Midwifery, and The Three Counties Medical School.
Kay Wall is the academic lead of IMPACT whose members include carers of learning-disabled relatives, mental health survivors, people with long-term physical disabilities, care leavers, survivors of domestic abuse and people living with dementia.
"It is important for all universities to recognise the value of service user and carer lived experience to provide their students with a rounded university education. Worcester is at the forefront in this process and has provided an opportunity for people like me to play a small part in its academic community. It is great to feel valued for my expertise and let's hope our contribution will continue to be recognised by the university community."
Mary Nettle - Mental Health User Consultant and Impact Member
The increasing profile regarding the need for dignity and respect across all caring services brings urgency to the involvement of people with lived experience in the forming and moulding of student values and attitudes from day one of their student experience. Recent studies have seen experts by experience involvement as having great potential for improving health and social care services by:
- improving professional accountability
- providing better information for service users and carers
- extending lay expertise alongside professional decision making
- leading to innovation from the grassroots
Nationally, however, this potential has often been diluted, rather than delivered, due to issues of tokenism, negative professional attitudes, unsupportive organisational systems and a lack of resources. The University of Worcester seeks to counter this trend.
"Service users and carers now have on-going input into courses through student selection, teaching and validation events. It is encouraging that the expertise of service users and carers is being recognised and used, and that in partnership with students, academics and practitioners we are working towards the same goal: to achieve the highest possible standards in health and social care."
Anne Duddington - Carer and Impact Member
IMPACT members are encouraged and supported to publish academic research jointly with academic staff and independently. For example, 8 of our members contributed to the recent publication by the British Journal of Social Work.
Moreover, they have supported the recent publication of Social Policy, Service Users and Carers: Lived Experiences and Perspectives, Clive Sealey, Joy Fillingham and Peter Unwin (eds), Palgrave Macmillan, Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2022, 226 pp., ISBN 9783030698751, Avril McIvor The British Journal of Social Work, bcad202.
IMPACT is determined to deliver on the potential for service user and carer involvement to genuinely enhance the student learning experience and help bring about new cultures of care. Kay Wall notes how encouraging it is that new areas within the University are looking to more fully involve people with lived experience. We are confident that IMPACT will increasingly make a real difference to the development of new professional cultures of respect, empathy and professional insight across the fields of health and social care.
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