Mend the gap – strategies for user involvement in social work education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A major strand in social work’s history has been its paternalistic character, partly due to a philanthropic tradition, but also to the tendency to import an individualist expert model into social work practice. As a result, gaps have arisen between expert and experiential knowledge. In this article, so called ‘gap mending strategies’ developed by the international network PowerUs are discussed. PowerUs consists of teachers and researchers from schools of social work and representatives from service user organizations in nine European countries. The gaps as the network identifies them are presented and we share some processes within our practices that mend or maintain gaps between service users and professionals. Two main strategies will be explored in more detail—a strategy that has been developed in the UK of mainstreaming service user participation in all stages of social work education, and a strategy that has been developed in Scandinavia of developing joint courses for social work students and students from service user organizations. A main conclusion is that alliances between educational institutions and service user organizations will be important to get a fuller understanding of what gaps we are facing and how they best could be mended.


External organisations
  • Brunel University London
  • Lillehammer University College
  • University of Essex
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Pedagogy


  • European experiences, gap mending strategies, social work education, User involvement
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number2
Early online date2016 Oct 29
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch