Community engagement and service user support

Comensus banner 

Comensus involves service users, carers and the wider community in scholarly activities across a number of Schools at the University of Central Lancashire. Comensus has been developed to embed service user and carer voices within health and social care practice. We provide a central hub for co-ordination and facilitation of user and carer involvement.

Community Members

We support students to be the best practitioners, researchers and educators they can be, and our aim is to provide a new dimension to the student experience at UCLan. Our volunteers are supported by the Comensus co-ordinator, Lisa Malihi-Shoja; Service User and Carer Involvement Facilitators, Chris Essen and Janet Garner, Project Support Officer Steven Seymour and volunteer peer mentors, Ernie Mallen, Peter Sullivan and Angela Melling.

Comensus members are a community of individuals from diverse backgrounds with a wide variety of health and social care experiences. The Community Involvement team is our core group which meets monthly to plan project development, strategic involvement and over view all of our activity.

Community Engagement

Comensus get involved in many local community events throughout the year, including the Health Mela, the Open Mind festival and the annual Disability and Carer’s Rights festival at Preston Minster. We also attend Open days at the University and community days in Preston and surrounding areas.

We were honoured to have Sir Tom Finney as our patron from 2006 and were very sad to hear of his passing in February 2014. Comensus held a celebration event back in 2006 at which they welcomed Sir Tom and introduced him to members of the group.

Comensus Engagement Group

The Comensus Group was set up to inform the project in 2004. It has now evolved into an Engagement group made up of academic staff members with an interest in user involvement; representatives of third sector community groups from Lancashire, representatives from Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, Preston City Council and service user/carer representatives from Comensus. Meetings are held quarterly and community partners often give presentations about their work with service users and carers. The groups also discusses opportunities to promote user involvement in teaching and make valuable links between the different stakeholders members. The back bone of this group are our service user and carer community members.

Please contact Chris Essen if you are interested in attending one our Engagement group meetings at


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Support and Training

We offer a range of opportunities at Comensus including:

  • Induction training
  • Equality and Diversity training
  • Fire Safety Training
  • Giving feedback to students training
  • Telling your story

  • Attending/ chairing meetings training
  • Support and supervision
  • Summer and Christmas social events
  • Team activities

Film Festival and Film Society

One in Four Film Festival

Now in its 10th year, the free UCLan 1 in 4 Film Festival is the only service user and carer-led film festival in the UK. It will run from the 10 – 14 October, with the first day marking World Mental Health Day, and aims to bring mental health issues to a much wider audience. It is organised by UCLan’s Comensus and Service Users and Carers Advisory Group with help from local community support groups, and will show a range of entertaining but informative feature films that highlight a wide range of mental health issues. A different film will be screened daily at the University’s Mitchell and Kenyon Cinema, with a Matinee on the Wednesday afternoon, and each film will be followed by an audience discussion.

Janette Grey, Director of Academic Development in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, said: “The official statistics tell us that one in four people experience mental health problems in the UK in any given year so this is something that can affect us all one way or another. Through the 1 in 4 Film Festival we aim to open up discussions around mental health issues and educate our audiences through the stories and characters in the films.”

Find out more about the films that will be screened at this year's festival.

The Film Society

The film society are film screenings throughout the year to celebrate or raise awareness around certain key topics in society. The First screening was ‘Lost for Words’ during carers week in June.

Meet Our Team


Lisa is the Comensus co-ordinator and has worked at the University since 2006.

Prior to this, Lisa worked for a number of charities supporting and empowering people with disabilities to speak up about local health and social care services.


Chris has been supporting the work of Comensus, as an involvement facilitator, since September 2014.

Prior to this he worked at a different university, where he spent several years developing public involvement in healthcare education, before going on to carry out participative, action oriented research in the areas of mental health, employment, social housing and welfare. He has also worked for many years in the voluntary sector and the NHS, directly supporting and advocating on behalf of service users and their carers.

Janet has worked for the SUCAG and Comensus groups since 2007 as a support worker, so has helped to organise meetings, Congress days, community engagement meetings, social days and teaching events for several years.

She now takes a lead for service user and carer involvement in the School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, and is responsible for organising user involvement in teaching, meetings and recruiting new students to their programmes.


Steven started his post in July 2015 after working as the Education Officer at the Students’ Union. Steven graduated from the BA Social Work programme two years ago, meaning that he was taught by the Comensus volunteers throughout his degree.

Steven works across the School of Social Work, Care and Community and the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing. He firmly believes in service user and carer involvement in health and social care and has developed this through his core social work beliefs and values. He also has the tidiest desk in the office.