Co-production and Peer Mentor Development Worker Mike Knowles has written this update about the progress being made by the Co-production and Peer Mentoring service, including innovative service user activities such as diary rooms, an expert panel and podcasts.
“Imagine having some of the most important decisions of your life entirely in someone else’s hands. Maybe you don’t ever get to see or speak to that person. That’s how it is for so many people when trying to have their most basic needs met. ‘Doing to’ can equal trauma, ‘Doing with’, for example: co-production with someone with lived experience - can be emancipatory. If we don’t want to re-traumatise, we need to work with people.
“When services are genuinely co-produced they work better because they make the most of the shared expertise of people who work in the service and the people who have lived experience of using them.
“We have recruited four volunteers to date and peer mentor training began in early Feb 2021. The volunteers have access to BCHA’s internal online training courses ‘Skillsgate’, as well as training courses run by BCHA’s Employability Skills team, plus they will attend Reflective Practice sessions.
“We are also developing an offer to involve service-users for whom it would not be appropriate to be a Peer Mentor (because of, for example, one-to-one or lone working issues) and so we have developed a range of other activities in which they can be involved, either as a co-host or a guest, including: a Diary Room, an Expert Panel and Peer Mentor Network Podcasting."
BCHA diary room
"A diary room is a private space where customers can go to record their views on camera or their audio. It is a reflection “room” where they verbally express how they feel about their experiences as a BCHA customer, or their life experiences more generally.
"Diary rooms can be an approach to understanding what it means to experience homelessness. It can involve engaging with people to collect human stories, both handwritten, audio and digital, in relation to a person’s specific issues.
"These stories can be collected using site-specific diary rooms or something more transportable, which empower participants and help give people a voice. The very nature of the diary room may encourage participants to reflect on questions they may not have otherwise considered. This reflection may go on to influence future engagement and can potentially impact on the delivery of services, by challenging and changing perceptions."
"An expert panel, with members recruited from the BCHA client group, will discuss and inform the work of BCHA and contribute to the wider debate around homelessness. It will give the point of view of people with lived experience of homelessness and to make sure that their perspective is used to shape and drive change at BCHA Housing First and influence decision making in the delivery of services.
"Panel members must have the ability to talk about their ‘lived’ experience in an open and honest way and the ability to support others when they talk about themselves and their experiences
"The impact an expert panel can have includes:
- The voices of people who have experienced homelessness are missing from BCHA Housing First planning and policy process.
- People who are marginalised are resourceful and have strengths and assets that must be acknowledged in policy making.
- People with lived experience can offer local solutions and are aware of what would work in their community.
- Those who experience homelessness can feel powerless and are sometimes not taken seriously by those in society who hold ‘power’ – being a member of an Expert Panel can provide a starting point for turning those dynamics around and empowering people.
- People with lived experience of homelessness can provide strength to a cause. Expert panels provide a forum for peers to interact, reducing isolation and support personal growth.
"We also felt that a more interesting and different approach would be to begin to open up conversation through podcasting.
"Podcasts will be co-hosted with people with lived experience and will involve regular instalments using themes determined by them. The podcast setting allows for greater anonymity of participants (as opposed to video) and once recorded can be made available across our organisation (and externally eventually) at all levels so that user voice is heard where it is needed."
Working with the Exeter Homeless Partnership
"In September 2020 the four BCHA peer mentors were invited to attend peer advocacy training organised by the Exeter Homeless Partnership and delivered by Groundswell.
"The BCHA Peer Mentor project has subsequently aligned itself with the Exeter Homeless Partnership as it became increasingly evident that there were benefits to a partnership. Both projects have a clear focus on empowering people with a lived experience of homelessness to act as peers and have an explicit commitment to co-production.
"This is with a view to providing a more comprehensive, joined up offer to people using homelessness services and to empower the group of volunteers to deliver a wide ranging offer, which addresses the lack of meaningful involvement of people using homelessness services in Exeter."
For further information about the Co-production and Peer Mentoring service, please contact Mike Knowles: firstname.lastname@example.org 07971 616436
Find out more about BCHA’s Co-production and Peer Mentoring programme