‘Pay service users for participating in social work education’

Service users asked to support the training of social work students should be paid for their time and expertise, delegates at a conference in London said this week.

Speakers from Sheffield Hallam University said their faculty paid service users and carers £20 an hour plus travel expenses for helping to deliver its social work degree.

However, academics and service users from other parts of the country said this was far from typical, and urged all training providers to adopt a similar policy.

Service users “must be involved”

The comments were made during a conference held at London South Bank University about service user involvement in social work education.  

According to the Department of Health’s requirements for social work training, service users should be involved in all aspects of the design and delivery of programmes.

Karen Vitler, senior lecturer in social work at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We need to recognise service users as partners, and show that we take them seriously.”

Warning on benefits

Anita Evans, a researcher at Canterbury Christ Church University, said users should receive allowances and expenses similar to those enjoyed by elected politicians.

However, Gerry Skelton, social work lecturer at Belfast Metropolitan College, raised concerns that such payments might compromise people’s benefits. These were echoed by George Foreman, who has multiple disabilities and works at Havering College in Essex.

Speaking to Community Care, Vitler said one solution was to make payments to user-led organisations, rather than paying individuals directly.


The DH provides a total of £60,000 a year to be shared among providers of the degree in England to support users’ participation.

The General Social Care Council’s 2007-8 report on social work education, Raising Standards, found less than 30% of this went on fees to service users in 2007, and around 12% on their expenses.


Almost all universities were involving service users in teaching, 84% in designing courses, and 76% in assessing students’ competence to practise. However, only 43% were involving users in assessing academic work.

The report added that the GSCC has developed a payment and recruitment policy for user participation, and contributed funding to set up a helpline for people on benefits wishing to take part in these activities.

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External information

Read Shaping Our Lives’ report: User involvement in social work education




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