Learning Through Listening:
Service users and carers’ contributions to social work education in NI

Conference Briefing

The Northern Ireland and Degree in Social Work Partnership in collaboration with Queens University Belfast, Ulster University, Belfast Metropolitan College and South West College held a conference on Thursday  24th May at the ‘Junction’ Dungannon: ‘Learning through Listening: Service users and carers contributions to social work education’.

The focus of this conference was to learn about the important contributions service users and carers make to social work education and listen to the experiences of social work students and the benefits for them to work with service users and carers during their professional training. This was followed by table sessions to explore how service user and carer involvement could be developed further, identification of the gaps and consideration given to build capacity and sustainability for the continued involvement in the degree in social work to inform further planning.

The conference was a full day event led by Nicola Keegan, service user rep and included inputs from service users involved in social work education, student social workers and service users involved with social work students on PLO.   Inputs were creative and delivered through the mediums of narrative, poetry and music.

Feedback from the conference has been extremely positive commenting specifically on the inclusion of service users and carers from a range of backgrounds, the methods of delivery, the powerful messages presented by social work students and their learning from working directly with service users and carers during their professional practice and the opportunity to explore how service user and carer involvement is developed further within social work education.

The inputs, table discussions and evaluations will contribute and inform a ‘Quality Improvement Plan’ for service user and carer involvement in the degree in social work which will be presented to the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and DoH; Office of Social Services to inform future planning.

The Partnership would like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the ‘Conference Planning Group’: Jackie Creighan (NIDSWP), Nicola Keegan (Service User Rep), Brendan McKeever (User background) Denise MacDermott (UU) and Joe Duffy (QUB).


Joanne Lytle

(NIDSWP Professional Officer)