About SWIG

This website is designed to provide teaching materials for Social Work students and teachers, using creative media to promote greater awareness and understanding of user experiences. By promoting materials, poems, videos and artwork produced by social work users in Portsmouth, we are revealing our individual stories and experiences.

Who are SWIG?

SWIG are a group of individuals who each have personal experience of involvement with Social Services on a number of issues, ranging from mental health, young people in care, disability and caring issues, people recovering from all manner of substance abuse. The group provides a mechanism that enables the University to give student social workers access to all this user experience.

If we accept that the job of a social worker involves dealing with a wide variety of personalities and situations, it is imperative that their understanding goes beyond the academic level. It is perfectly possible for a teacher to give students facts and research on just about any subject, but there is no substitute for the personal knowledge and experience of someone whose life is, or has been affected by the issues being looked at.

In order for this to work, the teaching team at The Centre for Social Work within Portsmouth University, provide the group with training and support in everything, from help with transport to and from the sessions, to training on how to put across their points and experiences clearly and succinctly. The group meet monthly to share their views on how the student/user sessions went, whether there are any training issues to consider and plan for, and who will be taking part in the work scheduled for the next month.

Members of SWIG are consulted and included in the planning and development of the curriculum. As a result, members of the user group not only speak to students, but also have representation on the panels which assess student work, and those that interview potential new students and staff. For the first time, the social work department can truly claim that they have real user involvement in all aspects of social work training and thus produce a better qualified Centre for Social Work.

The department first attempted to set up a user group in the late 1980s, but without formal support from the social work funding bodies, the group never really worked. Because of the new initiatives from the General Social Care Council, which stipulate that all social work teaching must have user involvement, the group was re-launched with the full support of the teaching team.