Service User and Carer Participation in the BA (Hons) Social Work

Report for AMR 2011-12


2011-12 has been a year of development and change.  Several new members have joined the focus group, Outside In, including a service user who is fluent in Welsh and willing to take part in activities, such as interviewing, as required.  Those who’ve had an input into the degree this year range in age from 10-80+, have included people from BME groups, and are people who have experience of mental health services, services for people with learning disabilities, older people, adults and children with physical disabilities, people with sensory impairments, and other social and health services (including statutory, voluntary and private sectors services, and service user led services)

There has been an increasing focus on the new level 6 module, ‘Completing the Circle’ and on new ways of working with students, particularly using animation and other creative approaches.  Learning from these experiences, there is less emphasis on some of the initial ways of participation which mirrored traditional methods of teaching and learning, although some of these methods (giving presentations, for example) are still used where effective.

Animation Summer School

The Animation Summer School in June 2011 funded by an HEA Wales grant provided a week-long positive experience of interaction between students and service users and carers with a defined goal.  It was an enjoyable experience for all.


Several of the group attended a conference in Cardiff in September 2011, run by the Universities of Swansea and Glamorgan, and had the opportunity to hear about and meet with other people involved in similar projects.  Feedback for this event was very positive.


A second summer school was run in June 2012.  A suite of films with an emphasis on the positive impact professionals can make on service users’ and carers’ lives was made – ‘Letting in the Light’ and a case study describing the impact of collaborating with service users and carers in this way on student learning has been submitted to the Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning by a student, a member of  Outside In and a Lecturer.



Participation in the Classroom


The academic year proper started with Participation workshops held for first years during induction week.  These were attended by Outside In members, students, practitioners and lecturers and introduces students to discussions about the nature and purpose of participation.  The model was collaborative learning in small, facilitated groups.  In addition, the animated films ‘Completing the Circle’, made by Outside In and previous first year students were shown at a premiere attended by all first year students, local practitioners, university staff, etc. 

Many other sessions took place during the year - examples of this are sessions facilitated by service users for year ones about Stigma, a Carer’s Perspective, and Supported Living; for year twos, service users spoke about the impact of detention under the Mental Health Act; and for year threes, The ‘Completing the Circle’ films were used by Outside In as a basis for a teaching session as part of ‘Professional Accountability’.  Other approaches such as role play and small group work were also used.

Participation in Assessment

Outside In were involved in assessment of all three year groups.  This is achieved by individuals observing and commenting on student presentations, and discussing outcomes with lecturers. 

Participation in Recruitment

For the second year, Outside In were involved at the UCAS paper selection stage of recruitment – panels were set up to consider the 200 or more applications and select for interview.  This is effective in terms of ensuring both a fair process and one which takes account of service user and carer perspectives about the qualities and attributes needed by potential social workers.  It is a labour intensive process, however, and it has been agreed that for 2012-13 there will be an initial sifting process prior to the paper selection stage which identifies candidates who do not meet the academic criteria and therefore do not need to be considered.

The interviewing process worked well with a service user or carer always being represented on the panels.

Participation in Degree Management

Two Outside In reps sit on the Degree Management Group.  A service user has facilitated two of these meetings which proved successful.

Service users and carers regularly attend additional meetings.


Participation in Curriculum Development

A focus for the year was the continuing development of the service user and carer-led module ‘Completing the Circle’.  Focus meetings were held to develop content and resources for the module.  It was recognised that the module leader would need to look beyond Outside In to other service user and carer organisations for input into the module to meet the students’ learning needs. 


Evaluation – Feedback from Students


Comments after watching the film, from new students, students involved in the project, lecturers and practitioners:

“WOW a fantastic film, certainly food for thought. Big thanks to all involved, I loved it.”

“Congratulations on providing such a creative learning opportunity for the SW students the process and film clearly are of real significance. How can I now develop this with my students?” 

“Thank you. It was truly a pleasure to be a part of it and a great opportunity to work alongside Outside In”

“What an inspirational event.  I have gained a great deal from the film today; I look forward to getting to know the outside in team and being able to develop my skills with the support of a fabulous team of individuals.”

“’Completing the Circle’ was an absolute joy to watch and was presented excellently. I felt privileged to have been able to watch this and feel that it has set the score, so to speak, for the coming years on our course. By observing the emotions and feelings of the participants we gained the advantage of insight to what 'service users' face throughout life. Can't wait to get started, excited doesn't even come close.”

“It was a privilege to watch ‘Completing the Circle’ on Wednesday.  The film was a very authentic narrative of the stories that outside presented to us last year, and its truth and honesty came across very powerfully.  Huge congratulations are due to everyone involved.  It was a compelling and moving in turns.”


“It was great to have a varied group of people with excellent input. I must say I am looking forward to starting the hard work next week and will be taking advantage of the workshops available.”

 “I'd also like to say that I think that having the folks from Outside-In coming to the sessions in the first week is a brilliant way of re-affirming to us new student why we are here. In a week where there was a very strong possibility to think "oh my God, what have I done" instead all I kept thinking was Yes,yes,yes, So thanks to all of you for a great first week.”



Feedback from students after the Social Work Processes role played interviews:

“Thanks to everybody involved, it was a good insight to assessment and also giving the reassurance that we can use the process. Really enjoyed the session”

“Thank you very much, really grateful to the Outside In members as what we learn from them is invaluable.”

“I was hesitant initially but hey was I wrong to be, the practice session was so interesting time was not on our side!! Thank you very much for such an eye opener! My choice of course has really been validated and I am so looking forward to the ups and downs of the entire course!!”

“I admit to being apprehensive about this afternoon, but got SO much from it. I feel that this week in overall has been challenging and rewarding in many ways. “

“I love the sessions where the outside in members come and participate ( a big thank you to all involved) It was interesting to compare my idea of what an assessment would be like to the reality of it. It's not as easy as I'd thought. It's all a learning process.”



The CCW grant makes high quality, meaningful service user and carer participation meaningful.  There is always more than could be done and developed, but given the constraints of lecturer time in particular, a lot is achieved with what is available.  This is due to the commitment of all involved – many thanks to Outside In, colleagues at the university and beyond and not least to the students themselves.


Liz Lefroy

November 2012