People who use services: Finding a voice through ICT
Every once in a while a phenomenon emerges that seems to have universal application and appeal, accelerating the pace of social and community development – for example, the invention of the wheel and the development of writing and printing. In living memory the emergence and proliferation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) appears to be a phenomenon that represents one of these infrequent developmental leaps, and if history proves this to be the case then we are participants in a significant event occurring in a short period of historical time. It is, therefore, reasonable to argue that social workers should not ignore how they might identify and maximize the opportunities that these technologies and developments offer to them as professionals and to the people who use their services. Rafferty and Steyaert (2009) report that social workers are already responding positively and actively to ICT but that ‘the use of technology for social progress will not happen appropriately and ethically without social workers working with others to mould technology developments and applications to their own and service users’ needs’ (2009: 590). This chapter explores how people who use social care services may find and have an enhanced recognition of their ‘voice’ in the social care system through exposure to and engagement with ICTs. It is also about how social workers may contribute positively in this process.