Journal Article

Critical Commentary: Happy Shopper? The Problem with Service User and Carer Participation

Malcolm Carey

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 1, pages 179-188
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcn166
Critical Commentary: Happy Shopper? The Problem with Service User and Carer Participation

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This critical commentary assesses the consequences and impact of forms of seemingly widespread, constructive and altruistic service user and carer participation (SUCP) within social work. In particular, and whilst drawing from Gramsci's understanding of hegemony and Levitas's critical interpretation of social exclusion, it is proposed that SUCP serves the interests of government, affiliated organizations, including those within social work and social care, and, perhaps more generally, the disparate needs generated by the neo-liberal-inspired social care market. Arguably, there are also related substantive aspects of SUCP that are problematic on ethical grounds—including the possibility that participation inadvertently increases social inequalities by justifying and promoting hegemonic agendas. Some suggestions are briefly made regarding how to move SUCP forward, including difficult questions that must be asked about whether or not SUCP can confront forms of structural disadvantage and oppression.

Keywords: Service user; carer; participation; hegemony

Journal Article.  3426 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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