On 5th May, Unity members got together to mark:
10 YEARS OF SERVICE USER & CARER INVOLVEMENT at Stirling.
The group reflected on achievements to date and remembered members who have been involved throughout the years. The event was also used to say farewell to Sara Hitchin, who has stepped down from the role of co-convenor, to take on other administrative roles within the University. The group presented Sara with a card and flowers and showcased photos of Unity input over the years.
Thank you Sara
Sara has been involved with Unity since 2009 and has worked hard to ensure that service user & carers’ voices are an integral part of the design and delivery of the degree programmes.
Sian Lucas will move forward as the sole convenor.
“Unity is a Special Group”
Unity gives me a sense of belonging; it gives me strength and determination to get up in the morning, to move forward in my day to day activities.
Unity is a caring, loving environment, where service users and carers can give something back, sharing our life experiences and knowledge to work closely with social work students and educators to help in their studies to educate and empower students to see it from a service user and carers’ perspective.
Talking to students gives me confidence which builds up my self-esteem to know that the students are learning. The social work academics, Sara and Siân do a brilliant job with the students and group to provide good outcomes for the students; they are a breath of fresh air.
Unity meets up every six weeks working to contribute to the students’ social work modules and events in the wider university, which include personal stories, role plays and workshops. Our meeting is friendly but with a serious point. We meet for two hours of discussion then an hour for lunch to socialise; me time.
I am also involved with the inter-university group working with other universities in Scotland to share ideas and knowledge and to organise events for the benefits of social work students across Scotland.
I have had the opportunity to deliver a workshop with Unity at the 10th International Conference on Practice Teaching and Field Education in Health and Social Work at Strathclyde University. The workshop we delivered was called ‘The Ideal Social Worker’; it was a privilege to be involved.
Unity is a special group that treats its members with dignity and respect.
– Ronnie, Unity Member.
Service User & Carer Involvement is embedded into the social work programme at the University of Stirling, and students meet Unity members at the start of their professional studies.
In the post below, undergraduate student, Tracey McQuillian reflects upon attending a seminar with Unity members, in which they talked about their experiences of using social work services.
I felt honoured that the UNITY members were willing to share their experiences of social work services with our class. It was both inspiring and empowering. It took real determination and strength to share their stories with us. This type of hands-on learning on an individual level was excellent. It helped me to see the impact of social work theories and legislation upon the lives of the individual. This individualised approach is something which is advocated through learning, however, I felt that meeting the UNITY members helped to put this into a context which felt more real.
The UNITY service user group particularly inspired me because I could see how empowering it was for the members to be able to influence the thought processes and learning of future social workers. I think that this type of partnership based learning sets the scene for future relationship based practice. As such, it was enriching and will impact upon my future practice.
A particularly potent moment for me was when a member said to the group “When you stop seeing the person as a person with problems, and start seeing a problem person… that’s when you run into trouble and your whole approach changes”.
Later that day, an event occurred which meant that this phrase resonated within my own life. It served as a powerful reminder that no matter where we come from, what our circumstances are, we are all essentially human beings, who all deserve a fair chance. It made me want to stand up for the rights of service users, and help support them in having a voice, and most importantly, having that voice heard.
I believe that the continued involvement of service users and carers within social work education is something which cannot be undervalued. It has the ability to create a generation of social workers who are connected to service user and carer perspectives long before they begin practice. Social workers must balance legislation, budgets, obligations and inter-disciplinary working. In the midst of the pressures of the occupation, it would be easy to lose sight of the very reason for undertaking training in the first place – to support people. I feel that by having service user involvement from the outset, our practice will be enriched by always being able to call to mind the voices of those who inspired us during the beginning of our training.