We are researchers and activists working in the field of service user involvement for many years in the UK and internationally who are concerned that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, years of progress in service user involvement have been unravelled by service users being left on the outside of key decisions and matters affecting their lives. Instead, we argue, they have become an afterthought. As authors, we combine both academic and service user experience and have been involved in advancing practice, understanding and guidance about the significant contribution that service users bring to knowledge production. This article examines the issues by focusing on the journey of service user involvement before and during the pandemic, as well as on what should come after. Turning to the experiences of disabled people as a case study example, we argue that going back to ‘normal’ would be fundamentally flawed, as evidenced by the marginalised way in which service users have been treated during this period of societal crisis. Our article concludes by urging a reflexive stance to ensure service user involvement re-establishes its pivotal position in public policy and practice.