About this site: definitions and meanings

Service user

What do we mean when we say ‘service user’?

Shaping Our Lives networking website sees ‘ service user’ as an active and positive term, which means more than one thing. It is important that ‘service user’ should always be based on self-identification. But here are some of the things we think it means:

  • It means that we are in an unequal and oppressive relationship with the State and society
  • It is about entitlement to receive welfare services. This includes the past when we might have received them and the present. Some people still need to receive services but are no longer entitled to for many different reasons
  • It may mean having to use services for a long time which separate us from other people and which make people think we are inferior and that there is something wrong with us.
  • Being a service user means that we can identify and recognise that we share a lot of experiences with a wide range of other people who use services. This might include, for example, young people with experience of being looked after in care, people with learning difficulties, mental health service users, older people, physically and/or sensory impaired people,people using palliative care services and people with drug and alcohol problems.

This last point about recognising our shared experiences of using services,whoever we are, makes us powerful and gives us a strong voice to improve the services we are given and to give us more control and say over what kind of services we want.

What people sometimes mean by the term ‘service user’.

The term ‘service user’ can be used to restrict your identity as if all you are is a passive recipient of health and welfare services. That is to say that a service user can be seen to be someone who has things ‘done to them’ or who quietly accepts and receives a service. This makes it seem that the most important thing about you is that you use or have used services. It ignores all the other things you do and which make up who you are as a person. This is NOT what Shaping Our Lives networking website means when we talk of ‘service users’.

User controlled

What do we mean when we say ‘user-controlled’?

There is a range of meanings of ‘user controlled’. Here are some of the things Shaping Our Lives networking website thinks ‘user controlled’ could include:

  • That service users decide what and how they want things done
  • That the majority of the controlling group (usually the management committee) of the organisation are users of the organisation or members of the group for whom it was set up.
  • That the group or organisation strives to work from an equalities approach to service users.