Challenges and opportunities

Evaluating the effectiveness of service user and carer involvement in post qualifying mental health social work education in Scotland: challenges and opportunities.

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of user and carer involvement in a new one-year postgraduate certificate course for Mental Health Officers (MHOs) in Scotland, covering the first year of its delivery (2009-2010).

Design/methodology/approach – This was explored in two ways: first, by assessing the level of user and carer involvement against a modified framework; and second, by measuring students’ confidence in working with people with mental health issues over the duration of the course, and through interviews with students and service users and documentary analysis.

Findings – The findings indicate user and carer “influence” and “partnership” over the design and delivery of the learning, teaching and assessment strategy, but no degree of “control” over any aspect of the course. Teaching provided by users and carers was associated with marked improvement in students’ confidence in engaging with and upholding the rights of users and carers in the context of the MHO role. Students reported increased awareness of the lived reality of compulsory treatment. Users reported benefits from feeling they had helped facilitate future good practice.

Research limitations/implications – The research design does not allow for causal links to be made between increases in student confidence and user and carer involvement.

Practical implications – The study identified substantial barriers to effective user and carer involvement but confirmed its potential as a positive change agent for post-qualifying social work education.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the evidence base by demonstrating the value of service user and carer involvement in post qualifying social work education.

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