Skip to main content

Claire Russell

Service User Representative

Service User Representative in the Department of Sociology 


With 25 years’ experience of receiving mental health and social care services, combined with 10 years’ experience of delivering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses, I bring a unique approach to the education of social work students at Durham University, by helping to increase understanding and confidence in how to approach mental ill-health and promote well-being. I seek to embed voices of those who use services throughout the programme, to further enrich student experience on the programme, in a service user representative role.

I have also contributed to the ‘Think Ahead’ Social Work Qualifying Programme Evaluation: Roger Smith, Claire Russell, Evgenia Stepanova, Laura Venn and John Carpenter & Demi Patsios; the fast-track social work programme, which trains mental health social workers in England.

In partnership with Durham University and North East Social Work Alliance (NESWA), I worked regionally to deliver ‘The Mental Self' in Social Work Education and Practice: a 3-part training package designed to improve students’ and newly qualified social workers’ knowledge around mental health, so they can better support others, as well as looking after themselves.

Further training also designed and facilitated specifically for newly qualified social workers in the region, as part of their assessed and supported year in employment.

Training package:

  • The Mental Self in Social Work Education and Practice is a 3-part training package, for social work students and practitioners, supported by Mrs Jane Wistow and Dr Sui-Ting Kong
  • Cultivating The Mental Self as a Tool for Growth is a 2-part intensive workshop with takeaway workbook and toolkit. Designed for social workers in their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), the workshop offers up to 8-hours of continuing professional development (CPD).  Delegates are encouraged to explore their lives in order to start cultivating strategies, tools, and practices - to maintain a sense of balance and protection from the inevitable strain of the challenging role and road ahead.  Delegates leave the course having made a commitment to themselves and with resources useful in supervision, vital in life.


Areas of Interest:

  • Mental ill-health, mental health, well-being, and resilience
  • Involving those with lived experience in social work education
  • Using lived experience to impact social work education and practice


Research projects:

2019: Think Ahead Social Work Qualifying Programme Evaluation



Claire Russell and Roger Smith (2020) ‘What difference does it make? The service user contribution to evaluation’ in McLaughlin, H. et al. eds., 2020. The Routledge Handbook of Service User Involvement in Human Services Research and Education. Routledge. 477-486.


Journal Article:

Sarah Lonbay, Claire Russell, Julie Smiles (2021) 'Involving co-educators in social work education in the context of Covid-19: Reflections on challenges and potential solutions’, 2021. Relational Social Work 5(1), 3-10.