I met founding members of a county-wide ‘forum’ that was set up and run for several years by service users and carers across one county in the north of England. This provided a meeting place for service users and carers to express views, share debate and seek services to meet their needs, contribute to their independence and achieve a better quality of life. As well as securing personal services for individuals, the forum increasingly acted as a voice on the quality of service planning and delivery. The forum’s activities expanded to include the county-wide meetings, the committee that ran the forum and the regular meetings with health and social services to discuss aspects of policy and practice. Primary advantages of this service user and carer-led group included enabling services to be: based on more accurate assessments; person centred and focused on actual need; better coordinated through using budgets more effectively throughout the county; and more effectively evaluated using direct feedback from people. Additional benefits to members included social benefits such as reduced isolation and rewards of meeting people, mutual support, better services and positive activities for isolated, lonely and depressed people.
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