P E T E R B E R E S F O R D
I came to social work as a service user because of my mental distress. I came to it earlier for a short while as a worker in a welfare department and then later as an educator, researcher, activist and writer. Good social work and good social workers are greatly valued and respected by many service users. People talk over and over again about the importance of their advocacy and assertiveness on their behalf. They value the social understanding and social model that underpins good social work, which doesn’t just blame them for their difficulties. I can relate to all this. I am proud to have been associated with social work from a service user perspective and it’s no accident in my view that social work has been one of the professions most responsive to, and enthusiastic about, the involvement of people as service users and carers. I am now Co-Chair of the disabled people’s and service users’ organisation and network, Shaping Our Lives and part-time Professor of Citizen Participation at the University of Essex.
I chose Whose welfare, a social work book from a service user perspective, because …
… This book was a breakthrough for me. When the government was using people’s progressive intentions in social work and social care as a Trojan horse for cuts and privatization, the book tried to decipher what was going on and highlight the critical need for truly participatory policy and practice. We involved local people and service users in the process. It led to us getting our first research funding, when we had been living on benefits for years. It was produced collaboratively. It was funded by subscription – a kind of crowd-funding before it was invented. It also coincided with when I got some really good help including in-patient help to deal with my mental distress after long and grim struggles. So it signaled better times personally and I hope helped trigger much broader interest in user involvement in social work and social policy. The child on the cover represents an older woman in the book who hadn’t been able to get to the Brighton Beach for many years.