Social Work Education Panel: Experts by Experience

Fiona Addison, the SYTP lead for Service User and Carer Engagement, talks about how SWEP’s ‘experts by experience’ are currently involved in Teaching Partnership activities:

With a record number of trained ‘experts’ including foster carers, adult carers, care leavers and young carers we are at the beginning of our busiest and most demanding time of year. Both universities have started their recruitment/assessment sessions for social work students and we represent the voice of children, young people and their carers at every event.  At the University of Sheffield we provide speed interviews and service user representatives on the interview panels; and at Hallam we participate in group observations alongside academics and practitioners and then score the students’ written insights on how they performed in the group activity.

In addition we provide workshops for students on placement, titled ‘It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it’ the workshop focuses on messages for social workers from children and young people in care, and uses the award winning film from our children in care council.  Foster carers facilitate the small group discussions throughout the workshop, and to date feedback has been excellent.  We participate in the annual ‘Living Library’ events at UoS, with 5 or 6 carers routinely joining 50+ students to share their ‘expertise’.   We also contribute on an ad hoc basis to individual lectures/seminars as and when invited by the academic lead.

Recruitment/assessment in numbers:

  • 14 trained foster carers
  • 1 trained parent/carer (from Rotherham)
  • 12 trained young people including care leavers, young carers and birth children in foster families (from Sheffield and Doncaster)
  • 19 selection events (7 completed)
  • Over 400 students predicted to be interviewed/observed

We’re looking forward to:

  • Attending lectures to get a feel for the social work curriculum and it’s delivery
  • More structured participation in social work education but with a clear focus on co-production
  • Becoming an ‘Experts by Experience’ resource linked in with individual academics’ areas of knowledge and specialism so we can contribute to the design and delivery of course content

Queries, questions, comments welcome to

Comments from service users and carers who have been involved in SWEP activities:

“Our work improves the jobs of the new social workers coming through, because we can pass on all our experiences, good and not so good, and what we think makes a good SW, and what children and YP expect, that makes them glad they have a good SW. Also what we or /yp/ think is a bad SW!”

 “I feel that the gap between social workers and foster carers is narrowing, both sides giving our own perspectives of the service, the pros and cons, and giving both sides a better understanding of the jobs we have and hold dear.”

Comments from students participating in ‘Service Users are People Too’ workshop, December 2016:

what a fantastic class, I really felt involved and respected”

“very good to hear the perspective of the people who support children for the large periods we are not there. How they deal with the repercussions of our actions/decisions”

“Really puts into perspective how important it is to explain what is happening to service users”



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