Participatory Regulation in Social Care: Mechanisms, Challenges and Best Practice Principles – An International Review

Service user participation (SUP) in the regulation of social services has been expanding during the past 30 years. In social services, SUP reflect a shift in policy, from paternalistic models of care to user-centered models that emphasize human rights and open up the domain of knowledge, previously seen as exclusively related to professionals. However, the rich literature on the ways that SUP in social services is implemented, raise concerns as to the meaningfulness of participation (Arnstein, 1969; Braithwaite, Makkai & Braithwaite, 2007; Croft & Beresford, 1992; Dean, 2017; Levin, 2012).

Through insights from empirical research and conceptual works, this paper introduces the patterns of SUP in the context of regulation of social services. In relating to the central regulatory tasks, rulemaking /standard setting, monitoring and enforcement, it addresses the issue of meaningfulness and the levels of participation in each. The literature review findings suggest that most efforts of SUP are put in the task of inspection in which service users’ role is to be a source of information, rather than on other tasks in which they function as decision makers.