A critical examination of the knowledge contribution service user and carer involvement brings to social work education

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Service user/carer involvement in social work education is supported by the Health Care Professions Council and currently, by the Department of Health. It is generally seen as beneficial but the reasons why this may be the case are often under-theorised and seen as un-problematic. This article seeks to provide a theoretical justification for an approach which values involvement as central to educational practice. It begins by looking at models of participation and how they can help us understand processes of involvement. It suggests that to move beyond tokenistic approaches we need to develop an approach which is based on equality and partnership. Drawing on European approaches to social pedagogy, particularly those utilising ‘the Common Third’, and debates around creativity and social power the article articulates an approach based on the co-production of curricula and assessment artefacts. This, the paper suggests, tests the students ability to empathise and communicate with people using services and utilises the latters’ personal expertise to bring the curricula alive. The article outlines a theory of creativity, inclusion and power which the author believes validates the approach developed and which provides a model for evaluating the real level of recognition given to the service user/carer voice within the educational process, particularly in social work education. It is suggested that such an approach is consistent with the social work professions’ commitment to the promotion of social justice and social change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-171
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2016

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