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Call for conference workshop ideas

Unity is hosting a conference on 26th April 2017, working jointly with the University of Stirling Students’ Union, the Scottish Social Services Council and the Scottish Inter-University Service User and Carer Network. We would love for you to join us!

The conference is about service user and carer involvement in professional education. It will be a lively day spent sharing best practice, developing ideas and discussing how to overcome key challenges. We invite everyone with ideas to share to join us! In particular, please put in a proposal to run a workshop or a taster session if you can: we are looking forward to hearing about exciting ideas and developments, from across the UK and beyond! There is information for anyone with an idea for a workshop here.

A moment of your time

On 10th October, Unity members took part in ‘A Moment of Your Time’, an event at Stirling University to celebrate World Mental Health Day. The aim was to encourage students and staff to take a moment out of their day, to take part in fun activities, to chat, and to raise awareness of the importance of looking after your mental health. Unity members were involved in the very popular art table (colouring for relaxation) and the wonderful singing group – click here for more information and to hear a clip!

colouring-table-1 singing-group-2

The event was organised by Artlink Central in collaboration with a range of organisations including the Students’ Union and Unity.

Article about Unity role-play workshops

Since 2014, Unity has been working with university staff to deliver role-play workshops to the social work students at Stirling. We have learnt a lot along the way about the best ways to do this! Now a journal article has been published to share this learning more widely, thanks to staff member Sara Hitchin and the Unity members and students who have taken part so far. Sara writes:

The workshop provides an example of how service user involvement in social work education has evolved from a primary focus on sharing personal testimonies to active participation in student skill development. It underlines the importance of investment in service user involvement to achieve an appropriate context for such projects to develop.


The article includes the views of students and Unity members about the value of the workshops. For instance:

I really enjoyed it. I felt that the interview with the Unity member felt almost like I was in practice as it was their real problems which allowed me to feel empathy. (Student quote, 2015)

I enjoyed it greatly – it gives me a sense of actually being listened to. It put the things that happen in life to great use that benefitted – I hope – the students who will be able to help change things in other people’s lives for their good, so indirectly I have helped those people get their lives together. (Unity member)

The full article is published in Social Work Education, an academic journal with an international audience, and can be accessed here.

Social work in 40 objects

Mark Doel is writing a book that tells the story of social work in 40 objects. He’s asking for suggested objects – see Unity’s suggestion here!

_group selfie for SW in 40 objects

Lynda reflects on her involvement with Unity


Hi, my name is Lynda and I am a member of Unity, which is a group within the university. We meet up every six weeks. I love being involved in Unity. All the members belong to other groups on the outside but getting together with Unity is the highlight of our work. We work with the undergraduate and postgraduate social work students, we do a series of workshops which includes a lot of role-play. The Unity members all love taking part in these workshops. So do the students, they say that it helps them immensely with their studies. We aim to produce the best social workers in Scotland and we do, it has been proved throughout the ten years Unity has been going.  We ourselves get so much out of working with the students. It gives us confidence and makes us feel we are making a difference showing empathy and compassion.



Unity members draw on a range of life experiences, to enrich the education of social work and nursing students. Here, Unity member Malky reflects on what ‘dignity’ means to him.

When a doctor tells you that you have a mental illness, it takes a few days to come to terms with this information and you slip into your shell.

Facing people is very difficult – you just want to keep to yourself, afraid to tell anyone you have a mental illness, and your dignity has eroded so much that you feel as if you are totally alone, even in a room full of people.

A medical person I was speaking to some time after I had received this information, suggested that I might do very well at a place called Caledonia Clubhouse. So nothing ventured, I thought to myself, and I went along to see what it was all about. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the people there all had a mental illness of one kind or another – I was no longer alone, other people were in the same boat.

Over the time I was there, I was given a T.E.P. which was a cleaning job, not really much of a job you may say but it was enough to get me back into work and the pride in my achievements this gave me. Going home that first night after work the thought came to me that I’m going home on the bus with other people going home from their work and it certainly made me feel good.

As time passed and I got more jobs the better I felt and I must say my dignity started to come back because I was fighting my mental illness and it became easier all the time to face people.

Dignity is important to people with a mental illness.

“It’s like love, isn’t it?”



In a recent essay, student representative Tracey McQuillian used her work with Unity to reflect on what makes “co-production” work. She explained what she has learned about herself from working with Unity and she described that “intangible quality” that:

  • makes the group so effective in its contributions to social work education;
  • supports and enables members to feel included and to develop, through supporting the development of others.

Tracey used a quote from a member to sum up how difficult it is to put the strengths of Unity into words:

“It’s like love isn’t it? You can’t grasp it, count it or measure it, and yet, you know it’s there.”

You can read Tracey’s full essay here.

Unity newsletter 2016

Our newsletter showcases some of our work, and helps us to keep in touch with members old and new. The latest edition is out now – we hope that you enjoy it!



Malky Kane reflects on his invovlement with Unity

The P.R. group from Caledonia Clubhouse was invited in to Stirling University approximately ten years ago to speak directly to the students. Would it work? Could it work? Sara Hitchin had no doubt at all. She thought that speaking to the students face to face was the way ahead.

Back then, we had a team mostly made up of Caledonia Clubhouse members. Over the years other people came into the group and we were becoming stronger as they joined us.Malky

We built up a bond with the students, and they explained that our presentations have helped them through their time at the university. Each year we have new students coming through the system, so we always have someone new to speak to.

We have Unity members who go out to other meetings. If we are invited, our members will go almost anywhere to speak to interested parties about our various mental illnesses.

We have come a long way in the last ten years and continue getting stronger. However, we had to say goodbye to Sara last month, she will be sorely missed by our group. The good news is that Sian Lucas will be taking over those reigns.

 We welcome Sian and look forward continuing to grow together.


“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.

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