4: Service users as tandem partners in social work education

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In this chapter, we describe and analyse a collaborative practice in social work education that is applied in a similar way in different European educational institutions, namely co-teaching in tandem. For the purpose of the chapter, we focus solely on the Flemish (Belgium) and Dutch (the Netherlands) context, since both have many characteristics in common. Typically, the involvement of service users has started with the involvement of people with experiences of poverty and social exclusion. Flanders is internationally known for its participatory anti-poverty policy. Through a scientifically informed, structural vision of poverty integrated in policy thinking, we focus on ‘vulnerable people in society’ who have multi-dimensional problems but also many strengths. With the recognition and subsidisation of associations wherein people in poverty cooperate to influence policy and practice (Dierckx and Francq, 2010) and of the non-profit organisation De Link – which since 1999 has developed the methodology and a training programme for ‘experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion’ (Spiesschaert, 2005) – Flanders, with the act on the fight against poverty (Decreet betreffende de armoedebestrijding, 2003), has enabled people in poverty to participate in anti-poverty policy and practices (Driessens and Goris, 2016). De Link stimulated ‘working in tandem with an educated expert by experience’ in various settings. Bind-Kracht, anchored at the Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Arts, developed training programmes in qualitative social work, in which people in poverty are recruited by the associations together with researchers and lecturers. Both organisations inspired lecturers from universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands to implement this method of working in tandem in their own educational programmes (Bouwes and Philips, 2016).

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