User participation in research, training and education are also important for service change and improvement in the long term.
Since September 2010 FreeToLiveLeeds have formed a hugely productive and successful partnership with the Bradford College Social Work undergraduate degree course. This started with a presentation to a group of second year students on the tension between the social and medical models of disability, delivered as a series of case studies by expertise, offering experiences (positive and negative) around Social Services and Direct Payments. The feedback from this session alone was extremely positive, as course lecturer Mick Grant spoke highly of the student responses shortly after:
“It would be fair to say that the session proved to be one of the most popular among all the students within the module. Typical feedback referred to how insightful and illuminating the event was and more importantly, how being given the opportunity to listen directly to those who had experienced directly the receipt of ‘services’ and ‘interventions’, had a positive impact on their thoughts of inclusive and collaborative social work practice. The whole area of including within taught sessions, ‘expertise of experience’, is one I hope to further pursue with the group in the near future. Many thanks to you all, from both myself and the students.”
In the following months FreeToLiveLeeds members were invited to engage with first year students in the Readiness to Practice module, using scenarios based on personal experiences and expertise in recorded interviews. During the students’ self reflection after the event members offered feedback directly to them in the hope that they learn from such valuable experiences prior to full time employment.
FreeToLiveLeeds have also delivered powerpoint presentations to students on Direct Payments, Personal Budgets and choosing a care package. Copies can be made available upon request. Members of the group have also been invited to sit on interview panels for course enrolment and end of year moderation panels for first year students in light of the existing participation on the Readiness to Practice module.
More recently the group have started to deliver some presentations through webinars. In the next academic year, members will sit on interview panels for new students to the course and offering/developing an extension of existing services and interactions across the range of modules and year groups that the course currently runs.
In a similar vein to this arrangement with Bradford College, FreeToLiveLeeds have recently begun negotiations with the Universities of Manchester and Leeds. FreeToLiveLeeds’ webinar program idea has also sparked interest from several other Universities in the region.