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Making A Difference : Service User and carer involvement in Social Work Education – a mixed methods approach within a participatory paradigm.

CASEY, HELEN,MARIE (2022) Making A Difference : Service User and carer involvement in Social Work Education – a mixed methods approach within a participatory paradigm. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Social work is committed to challenging inequality and discrimination, supporting social justice and valuing diversity throughout the world. Unique to the United Kingdom is the formal recognition of the involvement of those in receipt of services or providing informal carer support as an essential part of social work training. Since this commitment to involvement was established in 2003 with the introduction of the new degree in social work, a wide and variable range of activities has developed across universities to involve people with experiences of social work services. Research to evaluate the effectiveness of involvement has found that evidence of practice impact is limited. Further, research has identified that university structures have not been inclusive of those most marginalised in society.
This qualitative research study explores a key question emanating from those with lived experiences who have contributed to social work education, as well as researchers who have identified a knowledge gap; what difference does involvement make in social work education?
Five focus groups, predominantly including those who have contributed to social work education from their lived experiences, social work students , qualified social workers and lecturers, were conducted across the UK. The methodological design employed a triangulated approach to evaluate the impact of involvement through the university curriculum and to introduce an innovative ‘Mend the Gap’ participatory action research (PAR) approach. Three PAR projects involving participants with lived experiences who felt most excluded from traditional structures in society along with social work students and qualified social workers, promoted methods of mutual learning leading to transformative outcomes. Both research methods align with a pedagogical idea that people need to step out of dichotomous categories, such as ‘social workers’ ‘service users’, to close the division which maintains people in roles as ‘expert’ professional and person ‘being helped’ with the problem. The work of Paulo Freire (1970) provides the pedagogical framework to explore core themes of power, empowerment, oppression and critical awareness. The findings have demonstrated how the contradiction Freire highlights between the ‘oppressor and oppressed’ is overcome through the mutual learning process.
The triangulated research findings cohere through application of Braun and Clarke’s (2006, 2019) reflexive thematic analysis resulting in the identification of core themes. A new method for co-producing knowledge and learning and recommendations that build upon existing research for instigating change within social work educational structures is presented. The transferability of findings to other professional contexts adds to the value of the research contribution within the social sciences. The benefits of substantive mutual learning and how boundaries can be transcended through sharing experiential knowledge is emphasised. Most significantly, outcomes of the research demonstrate how transformation is achievable when those who feel most marginalised and stigmatised initiate the agenda. Altogether, the findings present a strong case for restructuring social work education, promoting outcome based meaningful engagement of diverse communities by putting service user- led organisations in control of an academic dominated agenda.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:PAR, lived experience, experiential knowledge, co-production.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Sociology, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Apr 2022 10:34

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