This article examines the concept of participation in relation to a range of recently imposed social and education policies. The authors discuss how disciplinary technologies, including government policy, operate at the interface of service users and providers, and examine the interactional aspects of participation where the shift from abstract to applied policy creates tensions between notions of parental responsibility and empowerment, participation and ‘positive welfare’. Three important issues/questions are raised: whether existing mechanisms for engagement between service users and service providers enable any meaningful participation and partnership in decision-making; whether multi-agency service provision is successfully incorporated within a participatory framework that allows service users to engage across and within services; and whether on the basis of our findings, there is requirement to remodel mechanisms for participation to enable user-experiences the opportunity to shape the way that services engage with families.
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