Beginning in 2017, the School of Health and Social Care commissioned the disabled people’s user led organisation Shaping Our Lives to develop the school’s strategy for involving patients, carers and members of the public in all aspects of education. Becki Meakin, co-director of Shaping Our Lives led the consultation process which involved attending service user reference group meetings at both campuses and talking with academic staff from across the school.
As part of the consultation what became clear was that current service users, carers and volunteers felt they had made important contributions to the education of students and that this was meaningful for them, but that often they had more skills, knowledge and experiences to offer that were being under-utilised. This fits with other research undertaken by Shaping Our Lives which highlights the importance that meaningful involvement in health and social care services has for people who access those services as patients, and that done in a truly collaborative way can have benefits both for the organisations commissioning involvement and people with lived experience.
The consultation culminated with the University hosting an Involvement Matters event in November 2018 which showcased examples of collaborative practice between people with lived experience and academics, as well as using the event as a recruitment opportunity to invite new interested people to contribute to the education of our health and social care students. This recruitment drive has been a great success and we have expanded the range of involvement activities in the school to include service users and carers contributing to program development activities.
The Shaping Our Lives authored summary report of their consultation, including a list of recommendations, has just been published and can be accessed here.
A key message that has been developed and ratified by our Colchester Service User Reference Group which exemplifies the importance of involvement for all health and social care education is:
“Involving people with lived experience of impairments and long term health conditions, and using health and social care services, provides experiential knowledge that is valuable and cannot be substituted by traditional classroom study. The expertise that is shared by people with lived experience is vital in developing student understanding so they are able to develop person centred and inclusive practices as a professional. People with lived experience offer a unique insight that provides the fundamental basis for academic study.”
The School fo Health and Social Care would like to take this opportunity to thank Becki Meakin, Eamon Andrews, Peter Beresford and Shaping Our Lives for sharing their many years of experience with us to enhance the range and quality of involvement across the school. We hope to continue to work with Shaping Our Lives and other user led organisations in the future.