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Service user involvement and

customer care
Trish Hafford-Letchfield

Key roles for social work

Key role 1: Enable individuals, carers, groups and
communities to identify, clarify and express their strengths
expectations and limitations.
Enable individuals, families, carers, groups and communities
to assess and make informed decisions about their needs and
circumstances, risks, preferred options and resources.
Key role 3: Advocate with, and on behalf of, individuals,
families, carers, groups and communities, including accessing
independent advocacy.
Work with individuals, families carers, groups and
communities to select the best form of representation for
decision-making forums and to be involved in or understand
the procedures and outcomes from decision-making forums.

GSCC codes of practice

Code 1: Respecting and where appropriate promoting
individual views and wishes.
Supporting service users rights to control their lives and make
informed choices about services they receive.
Code 3: Promoting the independence of service users and
assisting them to understand and exercise their rights.
Helping service users and carers to make complaints, take
them seriously and respond appropriately.
Code 4: Respect the rights of service users while seeking to
ensure that their behaviour does not harm themselves or
other people.

Service user participation

Enables the planning, development, provision
and arrangements of services to make them
more effective and responsive to diverse need;
It is an essential component of legislation and
policy statements;
Theoretical move from paternalism to
partnership-based approaches;
Influenced by the social model of disability.

Figure 4.1
The service user
involvement continuum

Independent Living Centre

Users involved in

on advisory, planning
or committees

user surveys,
focus groups
or consultation

Service users and

Delegated Control




Providing or responding to requests

for information or telling people


A framework for participation

Clarity about the aims and scope for participation (Carr, 2004);
Make resources available and consult on the process;
Ensure the process is accessible and responds to the perspectives,
priorities and needs of those participating (Hasler, 2003);
Be aware of power dynamics and clarity on extent and potential of
decision-making power;
Value knowledge and expertise of those using services;
Put frameworks in place to monitor and evaluate the process and
outcomes of service user participation;
Involve and train staff on the expectations and principles (Carr,
Make space for the expression of emotion and feeling that can arise
in the process (Beresford, 2004).

Customer complaints and

representation procedures
Statutory requirement (DoH, 2004);
Requirement of Children Act 1989 & NHS,
Community Care Act (1990);
Essential element of quality assurance
and service user involvement processes.

A complaint may arise from

An unwelcome or disputed decision;
Concern about the quality or appropriateness of a
Delay in decision-making about services;
Delivery or non-delivery of services;
Aftercare and decisions relating to the placement or
handling of a case;
Quantity, frequency or cost of a service;
Attitude or behaviour of staff;
Application of eligibility and assessment criteria.
(DoH, 2004)

Complaints procedure
Stage one Seek a local resolution;
Stage two Assess eligibility for and conduct an
independent review;
Stage three Review by the Local Government
or Parliamentary Ombudsman.
All stages should result in a decision in writing to
the complainant and access to advocacy and
support. Strict timescales should be adhered to.

Advocacy is a feature of user-led
Is an essential requirement and skill in
promoting user participation;
Is becoming a common feature of
legislation and policy in social care;
Can be provided by social workers

Service users want professionals to


Physically and emotionally available;

Supportive, encouraging and reassuring;
Respectful, empathic and warm;
Patient and attentive to the service users problems;
Committed to the independence of the individual;
Punctual, trustworthy, reliable;
Friendly but not afraid to tell people how they see things;
Knowledgeable and practical especially about law and rights,
benefits and diverse cultures;
Able to find practical ways to help them;
Willing to stay working with them or have a good handover if they
must change;
(Reform Focus Groups, 2002,

Service user involvement presents a challenge to
social care organisations in achieving it;
Service users/carers are key partners for support in
helping to resolve problems and improve services;
Organisational strategies and cultures can help
ensure service user involvement is implemented,
monitored and evaluated;
Customer care is one way in which service users
rights are respected;
Advocacy is important to ensure service user

Beresford, P (2004) Madness, distress, research and a social model, in
Barnes, C, Mercer, G (eds) Implementing the social model of
disability: theory and research. Leeds: The Disability Press.
Carr, S (2004) Has service user participation made a difference to
social care services?, Position Paper no 3, published by Social
Care Institute for Excellence, March 2004,
Department of Health (2004) Learning from complaints: consultation on
changes to the social services complaints procedure for adults.
October 2004, obtainable from
Hasler, F (2003) Users at the heart: User participation in the
governance and operation of social care regulatory bodies.
published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Report no 5,
November 2003, available from