The public service and research arenas are currently experiencing strong pressures to ‘involve’ service users in social care research, policy, and practice. These pressures came from the policymakers and the providers of services, but also from the users of the services and welfare as well. This consensus on policy involvement defies the complex nature of the relationships and processes of user involvement and the strong feelings that can be aroused. This chapter focuses on these relationships, processes, and feelings that characterise user involvement. Although the chapter includes a discussion on user involvement policy, the chapter's main concern is on user involvement in policy research. This chapter begins by exploring the category of service users and by considering the processes of involvement and participation and the meaning of these for those involved. It then considers the history of service provision and the development of service user involvement in services, research, and policy. In particular, it highlights the tensions between the conventional expectations of researcher ‘neutrality’, ‘professionalism’ and ‘objectivity’ and the ways of working which allow the personal lives and experiences of service users into the methods and processes of research. The chapter ends by contending that service-user involvement requires approaches to research and policy which reduce rather than encourage conventional separations of public/private, researcher/researched, and policy maker/policy subject.
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