Keeping it Real

Published in Features on 5 Jul 2017

The Keeping It Real conference at Stirling University on 26 April 2017 celebrated Service User and Carer Involvement in Professional Education and the difference it makes.

This was about showcasing good practice, sharing ideas and future ambitions, and discussing key challenges.

Sara Hitchens spoke eloquently (see attached presentation), reflecting back on the first national conference at Stirling University in 2013 (Real Lives: Real Difference) and the learning journey. She identified three essential ingredients for effective service user and carer involvement:

  • The importance of reciprocity
  • Coffee, biscuits and laughter
  • The investment of time and commitment to not just pay lip service to service user and carer involvement.

Key insights came from UNITY Service-users and carers group members who spoke movingly and with feeling about what being part of UNITY means to them. This included the importance of a positive and non-judgemental environment, the value of sharing lived experiences and good fun!

    Others spoke about how it was also about: being yourself, believing in yourself (empowerment), creativity, confidence, resilience, dignity and respect and making a difference by supporting reflection and learning to help students be better practitioners. 

    Listen to Sian, Jim and Tracey share their reflections:

    Nick Andrews, from Swansea University, gave a fabulous presentation (see attached) about Developing Evidence Enriched Practice – or DEEP for short! This is about starting with people, to make the world better. It’s not about not putting procedures before people and relationships or replacing conscience with compliance to policies and procedures. Instead it's about creativity and taking risks, valuing all types of evidence from all types of people and real conversations from different perspectives.

    Listen to Nick speak about how this connects to the conference theme and the need to value all voices equally to create the most valuable and powerful learning. You can also hear about Nick’s thoughts on professionalism and traditional ‘boundaries.’

    Sian, Tracey and Jim shared their future ambitions for Unity and service user and carer involvement in professional education:

    Further reflections from Sian, Nick, Jim and Roseanna:

    Remote video URL

    There were a series of workshops throughout the day by Open University, Unity, Dundee University and Nick Andrews. See attached presentations.


    This event was hosted by Stirling University’s service users’ and carers’ group, UNITY, in collaboration with the University of Stirling Students’ Union, the Inter-University Service Users’ and Carers’ network and the Scottish Social Services Council. Thanks to UNITY for also inviting Iriss to be involved.