Coproduction week 2024 – Blog 2

July 03, 2024

Welcome back to our blog series for Coproduction Week 2024! This year, the topic is ‘coproduction – what is missing?’. Is it equity of involvement, funding, the will to pursue it, joined-up working or some of the myriad other issues that effect our community. This week we hope to explore these issues and more.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are going to post a blog from one of the MEAM Expert Panel looking at what coproduction has meant to them. On the days between I will post a question for discussion with MEAM Approach network members in our Mighty Networks platform.

Have a great coproduced week,

Ant Pickup (MEAM Involvement and Inclusion Manager)

What does being an expert by experience mean?

A blog by Anne Taylor, Expert by Experience with MEAM

Being an expert by experience means that a person is listened to by the services that failed them to help those services improve their customer service. This can be before or after that persons multiple disadvantage has been dealt with although in most cases it is usually afterwards as living with multiple disadvantage is chaotic.

Often but not always multiple disadvantage includes homelessness. Once a person is housed, they can start the long and painful journey back to a place of health and can try to re-enter society in a meaningful way. A person who has experienced multiple disadvantage may not be ill but often the stress placed on them by their circumstances may cause ill health, almost certainly their life has been destroyed. As most housing services don’t provide health support for tenants, being an expert by experience is a good way to start the journey back into society.

Building trust between an expert by experience and people they interact with be it a charity or a council is important as trust is the most basic building block for a relationship and people with multiple disadvantage may have experienced abusive relationships which broke their trust. Finding a way back into such a society is extremely difficult so the desire for local services to learn from their mistakes is a great way to reintroduce people with multiple disadvantage to people who may value them.

However, it is not a career option. It may be that being an expert by experience opens doors to certain individuals to begin at the bottom of the career ladder again if that is what they choose to do after a length of time of learning about systems work through their experience with a charity. It can be a means of rebuilding battered self-confidence by speaking to organisations about coproduction, trauma informed care and other such changes that can improve services for others but there is so much stigma in services relating to multiple disadvantage, never mind wider society it can be difficult to be taken seriously beyond the function of assisting services to improve what they perceive to be gaps in systems.

However, it is also a way to structure an otherwise empty day with activities that can do some good for someone else who approaches a similar system that has previously failed those with multiple disadvantage. It is predominantly a way to feed back to the system what has worked so it can improve its service provision.

Being an expert by experience is a great opportunity to begin to rebuild a shattered life by building relationships with others, sharing relevant experiences and offering solutions but there are limits to what the experience can deliver and it is important to be mindful of that when deciding to become one as failure to understand those limits may cause more pain for an already hurting individual. It is important that services are clear about their offer from the start of an expert by experience relationship.