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The service user and carer advisory group at PSSRU (at LSE)

The Service User and Carer Advisory Group (SUCAG) was set up in PSSRU at LSE with the aim of increasing the involvement of users in our research. Some of our individual projects have had service user groups (or inputs), but our current aim is to formalize the involvement of users in our research.

The first meeting of the SUCAG was held at LSE in May 2007. The aim is to have two meetings per year. The Service User and Carer Advisory Group meetings have been attended by a small group of service users recruited through the direct payments project conducted by PSSRU at LSE, and through a local voluntary sector organisation. The participants included users of direct payments, carers looking after elderly parents (also on direct payments) and day centre users. The group have a variety of experiences and views on current health and social care services and policies which they were happy to express.

The group agreed that the SUCAG would be called upon to comment on new research proposals and to advise on the suitability of tools to be used, such as questionnaires, from the perspective of those actually using services.

Further to this, the group is to provide support to ensure that we provide accessible reports of research findings by advising on the appropriateness of the language used and how far they makes sense to the non-academic reader. For example, the group have commented on the language in a report of one of the projects in the first issue of Research Bites revealing the care that needs to be taken over terminology when conveying information to a non-technical audience.

On another project, the researchers came along and spoke about their work and what they need the group to help with. For this piece of work, the SUCAG members were sent material in advance for them to look at before the meeting.

The participants expressed great interest in the purpose of the group and their motivation for coming, namely a genuine interest in the problems that people face and how they are needed to be addressed. Members receive expenses, lunch and a voucher for attending. Any substitute care is paid for while they attend if necessary and for others, a carer who accompanies them is paid for.

We anticipate that the SUCAG members will add a refreshing dimension, different from the academic view of research but equally important.

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