By now it should be clear that service-user involvement is axiomatic to lawful decision-making both in individual cases and when planning service provision. Equally clearly, what will have emerged from the reported case law decisions and ombudsman investigations are occasions where respect for people has broken down. Partnership working with children and adults in need or at risk, with individuals and their communities, is one way of making their humanity visible (Bilson, 2007). Partnership working turns knowledge of need and risk into acknowledgment. It is when the personal dimension of a child’s or carer’s experiences is recognized through dialogue, and when the formal structures of law and social work processes are infused with empathy and compassion (Sachs, 2009). It is when their perspectives and their horizons, essentially their individuality, become known, their lived experience and biography and its influence on the encounter in the here-and-now (Clark, 2012). Put another way, the act of listening, giving voice to, and exploring options with service users engenders substance into the principle of empowerment.
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