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Another brick in the wall

7 February 2023

This is part of a series of blogs kindly contributed by the editorial group working on the lived experience issue of the British Journal of Social Work.

Blog thirteen is by Peter Beresford, Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives.

In the words and music of the wonderful Pointer Sisters, ‘I’m So Excited!!’. We have now received and accepted all the content for the special issue of the British Journal of Social Work: Voice and Influence of people with lived experience and it’s now in the production system. This is going to go down as one of those things in my life I have been really proud to be part of. What’s there not to like? Working with a positive, creative, unselfish and supportive group of people – the Journal’s editors, staff, reviewers and our guest editor team – to crank service user experiential knowledge and knowledge production up a big notch.

I’m not saying others haven’t done great things. This isn’t some kind of competition. But what a sense of pride and achievement, getting diverse and inclusive involvement into a major mainstream academic journal, in a really coherent and systemic way, having the chance to influence discussion and provide a basis for the long term improvement of social work policy, practice, research and learning. No wonder we’re excited!!!

Of course, we aren’t there yet. There will be more for us to do. But what we can say is that, crossing our fingers and touching wood, it’s working. The wonderful idea that people as service users have an important contribution to make in advancing knowledge for a key profession like social work to maximise its usefulness, has been shown to be fully justified. Service users aren’t just a key part of the picture. Without us, the picture will always be incomplete; the evidence only partial.

Of course, there is still the wider blight of tokenism, the mealy-mouthed attempts to short-change us with phoney involvement, rubber stamping pre-existing plans and decisions. But what this initiative shows is that the opposite is also possible – even in these fraught and highly difficult political times, when disabled people are treated like the enemy within and denied welfare benefits to which they are entitled and children are left to store up myriad unnecessary problems as adults through state neglect and official cost-cutting and carelessness.

This special issue of the Journal is the tip of an iceberg that’s floating in a very different direction. At the moment policymakers are looking more like the Titanic rushing towards its doom, than responsible and competent leaders committed to the rights and needs of those they have been elected to serve. It’s great to feel you are on the side of the angels and part of something that’s helping to bring home truly participatory, inclusive and egalitarian social policy and social work. Well done BJSW, well done all!