Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Crossing boundaries: hearing the voice of service users in social work education

Keywords: Service User involvement, Practice Learning, Influencing Policy, 'Hard to reach' client groups

Author: Mr Jim Sinclair (Fife Council Social Work Department)

Effective practice learning is essential to the future of all the human service professions and the impact of service users upon the development of students cannot be overstated. The influence of service user views upon social work training has been significant over the past few years. This is certainly the case within the University of Dundee where the emphasis upon service user involvement runs like a thread throughout the social work programmes.

Much work has been done to ensure the involvement of service users in the development of student social workers over the past decade and many such developments have been highlighted via a number of conferences and publications. However, much of this research has focussed upon the views of adult service users.

This paper will share the findings of research undertaken to gather the views of both adults and children as service users receiving services from student social workers under the direction of a practice learning centre. The research will cross boundaries of race, culture, ethnicity and gender.

The outcomes of this research will be shared via a number of forums with the aim of facilitating the voice of service users within a policy making context. This paper will outline the process and context of the research undertaken; present the key findings and share with participants the impact of these findings. The paper will highlight the links between the development of service user involvement across academic and practice settings.

This paper will present the findings of research undertaken with traditionally hard to reach client groups which enabled their views to influence policy at both agency and national level. In addition to impacting upon the development of services within the researcher's host agency the research findings will be used to influence the development of the new practice learning awards for social services in Scotland.

The paper is therefore likely to be of interest to practitioners, academics, researchers and policy makers across the various disciplines of the human services.

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 2.00-2.30

Venue: Ochil Three

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).