Lecturers’ New Book Highlights Importance of Lived Experience in Social Policy

Social work book
(back row, left to right) Dr Joy Fillingham, Dr Clive Sealey and Dr Peter Unwin, along with some of the service users and carers who co-produced chapters of the book

Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Theory, Dr Clive Sealey, and Principal Lecturer in Social Work, Dr Peter Unwin, from the University of Worcester worked alongside Dr Joy Fillingham, from the University of Birmingham, to co-edit the book, titled ‘Social Policy, Service Users and Carers: Lived Experiences and Perspectives’.

The book focuses on the importance of listening and acting on the real-life lived experience of service users and carers when it comes to making social policies.

The editors hope that the book provides a greater understanding of how social policies affect service users and carers on the ground and provides an impetus towards changes to make such social policies better for them.

The book used co-production methods, in which the editors worked with those with lived experience for each chapter to enable a variety of groups whose voices are marginalised or seldom heard to present their experiences of health and social care services. There are co-produced chapters from care leavers, domestic abuse survivors, looked after children, mental health survivors, foster carers, informal carers and individuals living with a long-term disability.

Social work book - academics

Dr Sealey said: “The book is highly relevant as recent studies have shown that service user and carer involvement have a great potential for improving health and social care services. We hope that this will provide a greater understanding of the real lived experience that social policies have on service users and carers, as well as an impetus towards changes to make such social policies better for service users and carers. We hope that this book will be relevant to academics, practitioners and policy makers, but also, perhaps most importantly, have an impact on service delivery and policy outcomes for service users and carers themselves.”

Dr Fillingham said: “Textbooks in the social sciences are the basis of students’ learning and understanding of complex social issues and situations. But so often academics are describing conditions, without reference to the very people whose lives are shaped by the policies and professionals around them.

“By hearing the voices and lived experiences of service users and carers and valuing their insights, connections between theory and practice can be made and students can gain both understanding and empathy. I am proud that contributors to our social work programmes have been able to have their work published, become published authors, and ensure that their challenges and strengths are realistically portrayed. It also provides an example of co-production and a model for other authors to write with the people affected by social policies and procedures.”

The book, published by Springer, is available from major booksellers and online retailers.