The Service User and Carer group @ The Open University has been in existence for several years. During Covid, it was decided to refresh the group and use Zoom to continue to meet online. This was particularly important as some of our members have compromised immunity and needed to self -isolate. In addition, our membership covers England and not everyone can get access to Milton Keynes. In the last year the group has continued to meet and obtained a grant from the OU to set up a web page. The aim of this is provide information, feedback from our monthly meetings, share good practice in service user and carer involvement and news about events-workshops, conferences etc which are of interest to service users and carers involved in social work education.
The Service Users and Carers Involvement group had a wide range of achievements in 2021, despite continuing to meet solely online and amidst the pressures of the Covid pandemic.
Meetings continued monthly and developed a regular pattern for ease of scheduling. There were, on average, ten attendees, who participated in the two hour long meetings and were paid an agreed rate per hour. We had several guest speakers in topics of interest, including Sam Murphy, Paul Maish, and some new Social Work academics - Gillian Ferguson and Prof Neil Thompson. We were invited to collaborate on a number of pieces of work, including involvement in Practice Educator Briefings, Practice Assessment Reports (PAR), and End Point assessment module for Social Work Degree Apprenticeship, as well as participating in the (virtual) introduction to the Post Graduate Diploma residential event in February 2022. We also continued with our longstanding involvement in interviewing prospective Social Work students.
We met with our counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to discuss our induction processes and cross working - we found that these naturally varied between the four nations but agreed an equal approach as well as a clear and shared definition of co-production. Excitingly there was also an increase in the budget awarded for our group (England) from £ 15,000 to £ 25,000, reflecting the increase in demand for our input.
While 2021 was a busy year for Service Users and Carers Involvement, plans for 2022 are shaping up to be even more exciting, with increased demand for our input and a heightened profile within the Open University