In this Guest Blog, Richard Tillman, a member of Revolving Doors’ National Service User Forum and contributor to the update of Clinks’ Guide to Service User Involvement along with other Revolving Doors Agency staff and Forum members, talks about the importance of listening to your services users, and involving them in your service design.
Key themes in the guide
Clinks’ Guide to Service User Involvement and Co-production shows that if you are going to shape a service that isn’t based around service users then it is pointless. You need direction and input from the people who experience the service. Unfortunately without service user involvement it is very easy for management to go off kilter or off the mark. Service user involvement makes organisations more diverse and so they’re able to face more challenges. It also has personal benefits. It helps the service user feel empowered and valued and that their experience and perspective is going to be taken on board.
The toolkit also brings up some challenges. The need to accommodate some people at the expense of others could lead to people feeling excluded or not having their voices heard. The needs of particular groups can be conflicting with other groups or personalities. Some people’s voices are louder than others, as are egos - it is important to take this into account when facilitating groups of service users.
Another issue is tokenism. Service user involvement is starting to be incorporated everywhere, but it needs to be meaningful. If the feedback isn’t taken into account or taken seriously then this could actually create a negative backlash and service users become cynical about the whole process.
The value of the guide
This guide is good for people who are unfamiliar with service user involvement and have no idea how to do it, and it’s good for people who want to incorporate more service user involvement in their organisation or want to improve their existing practice. It gives you the means to think through some of the implications and processes. The guide uses real life examples that add colour to the methodology and provide meaning.
My experience of service user involvement
I found editing this service user guide to be an enlightening and enriching experience. A lot of my experiences have been echoed in it. I think it helps to clarify and provide an easily accessible resource for people needing or wanting to incorporate service user involvement in their organisation.
I wanted to share my experience and influence the services so that other people don’t have to go through the same problems I went through. Working on Revolving Doors’ peer research Commissioning Together project, I enjoyed learning about other people’s experiences and I worked on skills I had developed previously but hadn’t used in many years. It was also nice to help other people develop skills I already had. One of the many skills I brought to the project was critical thinking. In my editing role, I commented and suggested some changes to the wording and good examples of service user involvement that I am familiar with.