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Nothing about us without us: Putting people using services at the heart of practice, policy and ethics

What we stand for 2021: AGM 15/09/21

Ahead of the BASW Annual General (members') Meeting and pre-event on 15 September, we are releasing weekly updates on our key priorities under the banner 'What We Stand For'.

In 2016/17 BASW’s journey of increasing and developing the involvement of people with lived experience took a step change with the adoption of involvement standards in Council and a new drive to ensure a new alliance between practitioners and citizens.

The standards focused on ensuring people with lived experience were centrally involved and could influence our activities and priorities at the levels of practice, politics and policy, and governance.  It laid out an ethos of solidarity with people with lived experience in recognition of common approaches to social justice, human rights and a fairer society.  

Since that time, we have built on and expanded our commitment to working in partnership with people with lived experience of social work, shaping our policies, all practice guidance, campaigns, professional development and events, the content of Professional Social Work Magazine and the British Journal of Social Work.

We have brought more experts by experience into our committees and topic groups e.g. on to National Standing Committees, Professional Development Committee, the BASW Trust Charity Board and to various topic groups in England.

As the pandemic hit, we advocated in the media and lobbied governments to promote the needs off people left unserved or under-protected in lockdowns.

And our messages about the importance of personal protective equipment and pandemic practice guidance for social workers was couched in the importance of ensuring social workers could safely reach the people needing support the most.

Co-production within BASW

Our current policy and strategy for co-production and involvement, and our payment mechanisms, are based on the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) ‘4Pi’ framework: Principles (a commitment to equal value of the contribution of people with lived experience); Purpose (what are we trying to achieve and why is it important?), Presence (why are we here and how can I be supported to be here?), Process (how are we going to do this work?) and Impact (what difference will this make, what value will it bring?).

Our next iteration of our policy and strategy will build on this framework and co-produce with experts by experience how we live up to the standards we have set.

In a recent ‘stocktake’ of involvement and co-production activities with 12 experts by experience partners we gathered rich messages about the last few years co-production and involvement activities that are driving our refreshed strategy from 2021 onwards:

‘…(I) have been thinking about how far we’ve come since I joined with BASW some 5 years ago now. We have come a long way but we do still have a long way to go. How do we get to hear and engage with those people who are not activists, who are not “out there” where they can be reached?’

‘I am often asked to do work but am rarely told why it is needed and why I am doing it!  Why are we involved in BASW’s work, what is the purpose? The efforts made to involve us have been really positive but what is the purpose of it?’

‘…..we don’t have the kind of rights that, as employees, you would have from BASW and that puts us in a vulnerable position sometimes we can be treated less well. And emotional labour - I think that can be forgotten….’

I have been involved with BASW since about 2016 working on the Charter for Social Workers working with disabled adults. And in 18/19 we presented that charter at several forums under the auspices of BASW. That process was really interesting, exciting and rewarding.  It was reciprocal. As much as we were thanked for our contributions, I also thank BASW for the opportunity because I’d learned so much in that process, it was great! 

‘Could more be done around and to expand on diversity including black and ethnic issues? Could BASW pro-actively develop workstreams, have meetings, hold forums of inclusive (expert by experience) voices?’

Some recent highlights of our involvement and co-production activities include:

For social workers:

  • Inspiring social workers through contributions of people with lived experience in learning events and webinars
  • Involving experts by experience throughout our 50th Heritage activities, experiencing our narratives of ourselves through their eyes
  • Speaking out on the vital synergy between the rights of people needing services and support, and social workers rights to working conditions and time to do their job well.

For social work:

  • Co-producing practice guidance with people with learning disabilities and autistic people
  • Embedding lived experience in all BASW professional development activities
  • Ensuring the voice of lived experience of young people and adults at the heart of the NHS Digital/SCIE/BASW partnership project on Digital Social Work (2020)

For a better society:

  • The 2019 general election manifesto calling for reforms to Universal Credit, an end to austerity and tackling the homelessness crisis 
  • Developing joint BASW/SWU anti-austerity group with experts by experience
  • With NESTA funding, working in partnership with people with lived experience and others to develop a Movement for Social Approaches to Mental Health.