Shaping Our Lives can offer you a host of services to support the inclusive involvement of service users as follows:

  • Co-produced and user-controlled research into the full cycle of health and social care services, from policy and planning to delivery in partnership with service users.
  • Facilitate inclusive user involvement through focus groups, discussions, surveys and interviews.
  • Develop strategies for an organisation to become user-focused.
  • Provide workshops and training in the inclusive involvement of service users.
  • Provide user-controlled evaluation of services and activities.
  • Mentor people embarking on a user involvement programme and provide how to and standards guidelines.


Shaping Our Lives has 20 years’ experience of consulting with service users to highlight the important role they have in planning and delivering services, sharing their expertise and facilitating their ‘voice’ by demonstrating best practice in inclusive involvement of diverse communities. Therefore, we have considerable experience of working directly with people with a wide range of physical, sensory and cognitive impairments. We are also engaged in the Health and Wellbeing Alliance to represent user-led organisations and service user perspectives.

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Alliance

Win-Win Alliance (User-led organisations, disabled people and service users)

The Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HW Alliance) has been established to:

  • Facilitate integrated working between the voluntary and statutory sectors
  • Support a two way flow of information between communities, the VCSE sector and policy leads
  • Amplify the voice of the VCSE sector and people with lived experience to inform national policy
  • Facilitate co-produced solutions to promote equality and reduce health inequalities

The HW Alliance is jointly managed by the Department of Health (DH), Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England and is made up of 21 VCSE Members that represent communities who share protected characteristics or that experience health inequalities. Through their networks HW Alliance Members can link with communities and VCSE organisations across England.

Individuals and VCSE organisations who would like to share their experiences and ideas with NHS England, DH and PHE can do so via HW Alliance Members.

The Win-Win Alliance includes Disability Rights UK, Shaping Our Lives, CHANGE and the National Survivor and User Network (NSUN).

They are led by disabled people and bring tested methods to build up, gather and feed the direct and collective voice of our lived experience into (co-produced) projects with other equality groups.

Win-Win Alliance hopes to see our impact in policy and practice leading to further improvements around choice, control and independent living across all our life domains, including at work (e.g. in the NHS).


The Health and Wellbeing Alliance  Programme brings the power of the voluntary sector together with the health and care system, to improve services and promote well-being for all.

Shaping Our Lives represents service users and user-led organisations in policy development for NHS England, Public Health England and the Department of Health. This has led to initiatives such as user-driven commissioning, addressing health inequalities, parity of medical and non-medical care and the right to peer support.


Read about our most recent projects

  • Shaping Our Lives A Refuge for All Project and Findings Report

    A Refuge for All is a project led by disabled women with experience of violence and abuse. An advisory group of disabled women have reviewed the progress of the project at regular intervals. This Findings Report and the Best Practice Toolkit provide a user-led approach to improving access for disabled women for service providers who want to achieve a high standard of service delivery for disabled women

  • Mutual Benefits – The potential of disabled people as foster carers’ Shaping Our Lives is delighted to be part of this innovative project.  Disabled people have an insight into successful parenting from their own lived experience and can apply strategies to fostering that would be very beneficial to looked after children.


  • Improving Understanding of Service User Involvement and Identity Listening to and respecting service users’ voices and perspectives is increasingly known to be an essential part of developing quality health and social care services. Shaping Our Lives has pioneered service user involvement in all aspects of policy, planning and delivery of services.

Read about our past projects 


  • Assisted dying developing the debate.  Through interviews with people holding strongly opposing views about whether assisted dying should be legalised, Professor Peter Beresford OBE and colleagues identified and explored a surprising amount of common ground – including the clear agreement that palliative care provision for the terminally ill is currently inadequate.


  • From Mental Illness to a social Model of Madness and Distress There are growing concerns about UK mental health policy and services. They are widely seen as being in ‘crisis’,chronically underfunded and having fallen far behind physical healthcare. There are also more fundamental worries that they are over-reliant on a narrowly-based medicalised conceptual framework which can be stigmatizing and unhelpful for service users.



Shaping Our Lives recruited a group of service users and carers to reflect on the standards from their experience of interacting with social workers when in receipt of services. We also discussed the standards with a group of social work students and service user educators at London South Bank University and the University of Durham. These discussions took place during the summer of 2015. Participation was enthusiastic and informed; service users and carers took the opportunity to help improve the standards, recognising their importance to strong social work practice.

This report offers the views of a wide range of disabled people about present UK disability policy and how they may best work to improve it. In 2011 Jenny Morris wrote a Viewpoint report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called Rethinking Disability Policy. Shaping Our Lives have facilitated two meetings to enable disabled people to discuss what they think about the findings of the report and look at ways in which disabled people can lead improvements to policy and practice as experts by experience – disabled people living and working in austerity Britain from 2012 through to mid-2015.


  • Birmingham South Central CCG
    We assisted with the involvement of young people and carers in the procurement of the mental health services contract for Birmingham. Acting as advisors, we helped to facilitate and plan a four month programme of involvement that included developing service user-led questions for the tender document and evaluating bids with a scoring responsibility.


  • Involving people with severe and multiple disadvantage
    Earlier this year we published a report following research areas about people facing a combination of severe disadvantages, including: homeless people, people who misuse alcohol and drugs, people at risk of violence and abuse, people who have experience of the penal system and people who use mental health services. We collected case studies of demonstrating best practice involvement across a range of sectors including statutory, public and the voluntary sector. We also conducted research into the challenges that people face trying to get involvement projects off the ground and the barriers to funding.


  • Leonardo PowerUs  (link to web site) is a partnership between Lillehammer University Norway, Lund University Sweden and Shaping Our Lives National User Network in the United Kingdom. It is funded by the EU Education and Culture Learning Programme. The project has focused on in social work education and practise. For the last two years the partnership has pioneered a model for service user involvement in social work education. It brings service users into the classroom to study alongside social work students for a module of the course. The outcomes in all the test sites have been extremely positive and by learning together it has been possible to break down many barriers between service users and future social workers. As part of this project we have developed a UK and international charter.


  • Shaping Our Age – End of project consultations
    We conducted an evaluation of the Shaping Our Age three year research study funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Royal Voluntary Service in partnership with De Montford and Brunel University. The evaluation examined the views of older people from diverse communities (who may not have been represented in the initial sample) and asked them to share their views on well-being and involvement in the services they use. The groups included older people in residential nursing care, older disabled people, older LGBT people, older people from BME communities and older men. The findings will be published shortly.


  • HCPC: Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics
    Shaping Our Lives undertook a service user review of regulatory standards on behalf of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). have conducted face-to-face interviews and a focus group with service users to explore how these standards may be developed to be effective in providing service users with an accessible framework for evaluating the standard of services they receive from practitioners including social workers in England.


Shaping Our Lives conducted a service user consultation for the leadership strategy response to the Caring for Our Future social care white paper. An in-depth study with over 150 service users and disabled people into the role service users can take in leading and shaping their own social care services. The resulting publication ‘Leadership Starts with Me’ focuses strongly on taking a people first approach and involvement at all levels of service provision.