In work with service users, I was aware that Josie (not her real name) had the capacity to make a valuable contribution to the work of many local, regional and even national organizations. The barriers to this lay first of all in her own restricted view of her expertise and her lack of confidence. Over a two-year period, I saw how our invitations to her to join us at meetings led to her gaining confidence. Between all of us — agency staff, other service users and Josie — we managed the tension between reinforcing her dependence and making available the resources for her to empower herself. We gave her support and she attended what, in effect, were personal and skills development meetings. She began to contribute occasional comments. Eventually, she became a regular participant, capable of making her own independent critical contributions, based on her own experiences and judgements. Her growing assertiveness acted as a spur to other members of the group. Her contributions began to affect the course of the events she attended. She began to take up with local service providers, for herself and her partner, those aspects of the services she regarded as inadequate and was delighted to be able to achieve some improvements.
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