‘Making it real’: evaluating the impact of service user and carer involvement in social work education

Denise Tanner, Rosemary Littlechild, Joe Duffy, David Hayes

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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Service user and carer involvement (SUCI) in social work education in England is required by the profession’s regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council. However, a recent study of 83 HEIs in England reported that despite considerable progress in SUCI, there is no evidence that the learning derived from it is being transferred to social work practice. In this article we describe a study that examines the question: ‘What impact does SUCI have on the skills, knowledge and values of student social workers at the point of qualification and beyond?’ Students at universities in England and Northern Ireland completed online questionnaires and participated in focus groups, spanning a period immediately pre-qualification and between six to nine months post-qualification. From our findings, we identify four categories that influence the impact of service user involvement on students’ learning: student factors; service user and carer factors; programme factors; and practice factors; each comprises of a number of sub-categories. We propose that the model developed can be used by social work educators, service user and carer contributors and practitioners to maximise the impact of SUCI. We argue that our findings also have implications for employment-based learning routes and post-qualifying education.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Early online date18 Dec 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Dec 2015


  • service users
  • social work education
  • values
  • user participation
  • professional practice


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