Social Work Voices

Social Work Voices is a group of individuals with lived experience and knowledge of Social Work and Social Care services.

This group is embedded in Social Work education at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council. We use an approach of partnership working, sharing our knowledge, our curiosity and willingness to learn and co-production. Co-production means that you may be involved in the creation, brainstorming, planning, delivery and evaluation of the activities that are carried out and be working in partnership with different individuals and organisations. You may help to design exercises that re-create and address issues and positive experiences within Social Work, that you or your family members have experienced. This allows us to centre reality and a sense of valuing at the heart of Social Work Education, improving learning for students, working closely with the Lecturers in the University and adding out voice to wider system wide initiatives.

Our Citizen Involvement Coordinator, Steve Emmerson, will build a relationship with you and explore your interests and aspirations. She will work with you to understand how you would like to be involved and aim to make this happen. The aim of her role is to ensure that the Social Worker, whether as a student or qualified professional never loses sight of the person they are working with and that they are always at the heart of the work.

You can get involved in:

  • interviews
  • teaching sessions
  • meetings
  • creating videos and written resources
  • sessions around Equality and Diversity

And so much more. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience of meetings or other activities, everyone is welcome and will be supported.

People with a variety of experiences and knowledge are involved in many elements of social work education. Their involvement is fundamental to the activities at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council. Involving people with experience of social work services, is highly valued by students and the social work course team at University of Suffolk and our partners within the Suffolk and Norfolk Teaching Partnership.

Essentially, social work practice is about social justice and social change and this is reflected in the meaningful and continued involvement of service users and carers at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council.

At the University of Suffolk, Social Work our SWV member group developed and identified the name 'Service Participant' to describe their role. This may be commonly known in other subject areas as Service users and Carers, Citizens, Experts by Experience and more.

Involvement can include being involved in anything related to social work education across University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council from admissions, interviews, contributing to teaching and learning activities with students and Social Workers, assessing students' skills and knowledge, developing learning materials, influencing what is taught at pre-and-post social work qualification, making sure service user perspectives are integral to decision making forums. 

Admissions interviews

Involvement in admissions interviews means being part of an interview panel alongside a member of the social work course team and either a social work practitioner, a practice educator or a social work manager. Together people discuss their views of the quality of applicant's interview and make a decision about if the applicant is suitable for the social work course. 

Contributing to teaching and learning activities

This can mean service participants talking in small groups or to large conference audiences, about their experience of needing support and working with social workers, care or key workers and what worked well and what could have been different. When students and Social Workers hear and really take in these experiences it can make a big difference to their understanding and it influences their values and shapes their social work practice. 

Assessing students' skills and knowledge 

Examples of this are where service participants observe and/or take a part in a student role play and provide feedback to the student. Students really appreciate this immediate feedback.

Developing learning materials and influencing the curriculum

This can be about creating case studies or for example a list of top tips (see below for an example).  Learning materials that are informed by people’s experience and knowledge make education more vital and engaging. Service participants are involved in shaping what is taught and how it is taught and advise the social work course team at University of Suffolk and Workforce Development at Suffolk County Council on potential changes. 

Taking part in decision making forums

Service participants are involved at all levels of the Teaching Partnership and are involved with social work course committee meetings. This is where students get a chance to feedback their views to the course team and partners and service users and carers also have a voice. 

These are just some of the ways people get involved at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, but there are other ideas and we would be interested to hear from you if you have an idea. 

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the involvement of social work service participants at the University of Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, please contact:

For more information on our approach please read Sophie's Blog.

  • An article about how service participants and students learn and work alongside each other at South Bank University
  • A paper based on a case study of service participant involvement in an adoption research project
  • A special issue of Social Work Education - The International Journal
  • A National Voice - Coram is for children and young people to actively participate in shaping their own lives and holding to account the services that are responsible for their care
  • Shaping our Lives - INVOLVE - A national user-controlled organisation and network.
  • Suffolk Children in Care Council gives a voice to children and young people in Suffolk's care services

Who we are and what we stand for 

Our mission is to make learning “real” through sharing our experiences to inspire and improve social work education, enhancing and enriching the learning experience. 

Our vision involves realising our full potential through developing a citizen community involving equal partnership where “I am not grateful just to be invited” 


Our values:  

Respect for people 

We value and support each other, in our differences and experiences. 

Don’t give up on us 

Stick by us and show understanding towards us.

Learning together 

There is not an instruction manual, and we want to learn and experience this together.


We work together as a community.


We are non-judgemental and it is important to not make assumptions.

Access to all 

Everyone should have opportunities to be involved.

Meaningful involvement 

We do not want tokenism or lip service.


We talk to, listen and hear one another.

Using our voice 

We have a voice to create positive change.

We are all human 

It is important to be ourselves and sometimes we all need some help.

Make a difference 

It is not about who is going to allow me, but who is going to stop me.