What difference does it make? The service user contribution to evaluation

Authored by: Claire Russell , Roger Smith

The Routledge Handbook of Service User Involvement in Human Services Research and Education

Print publication date:  August  2020
Online publication date:  August  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138360143
eBook ISBN: 9780429433306
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, we present one narrative account of an approach to evaluative research, drawing on the expertise of people with direct experience of using services, in this case in the field of mental health. The study on which we draw for this was a government-commissioned evaluation of a ‘fast rack’ social work qualifying programme in England. The programme providers expressed a commitment to including a service user perspective in its delivery, and we felt that it was important to respond positively to that aspiration in undertaking the evaluation. An ‘expert by experience’ was therefore recruited to the research team at an early stage. Here, we describe the process from this point, outlining the ways in which this approach enhanced all aspects of the study, while exploring the challenges of incorporating the service user perspective fully and authentically. The chapter includes a number of dialogue boxes exploring the perceptions of the expert by experience involved in the evaluation, as we sought to work out how to achieve these goals – acknowledging, too, where we fell short. We conclude that involving experts by experience in evaluations is central to the integrity of the findings, and always ‘worth the effort’!

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