Within social work and social care ‘service users’, also known as ‘experts by experience’, have traditionally been identified as people who are (or have in the past) accessed social care or social work services or care for someone accessing such services.  We advocate a broader, more inclusive, and active definition to also include those who choose not to use the services that are currently available to them. This acknowledges that a ‘service user’ should always be self-identifying and seen as a person first and foremost. We are committed to working with members of the public with lived experience of social care or social work, to ensure that our research is developed and shaped in collaboration with the people and communities that we serve.

Service User Involvement (SUI) in social care and social work is similar to Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) in health care which tends to group involvement around specific health conditions. However, the term ‘patient’ does not have resonance in social care where the focus is more around activities of daily living, maintaining independence and enabling the individual to play a full part in society. The underlying principles for both promote active, equal partnerships between people who use health and social care services, carers, families as well as people from organisations that represent people who use services.

Listening to and respecting service user voices and perspectives is increasingly known to be an essential part of developing quality evidence based social care services that reflect the needs and challenges of the diverse populations they service.