"The Food Critic"
Updated: Jul 31
We are in a critical moment to end rough sleeping. If people with lived experience of homelessness are not involved at all levels of decision making we will miss it.
Last week the Government announced plans ‘to provide 6,000 long-term safe homes for vulnerable rough sleepers.’ For years local authorities have faced challenges accessing decent, affordable accommodation, - due to combinations of supply and social security issues - so this is an extremely positive step for current efforts to end rough sleeping.
However, there is a huge amount more needed beyond the provision of a supply of bricks and mortar, beyond a conception of homelessness simply as a lack of a roof. Regretfully, whilst commitments were made to ‘work in partnership with councils, local leaders and the property sector’ there was no reference to working with those that these plans are intended to support.
We know that historically the reason many chronic rough sleepers felt that the only option they had was to sleep on the street was because they were not listened to, and that personalised support and respect for desires and wishes was not provided. To make a real change, to truly end rough sleeping, we must work with each other, not work on or to people.
At Expert Link we passionately believe that people with lived experience should be involved at all levels of decision making, whether around individual support, local provision of housing, or national homelessness strategies. This is not just a moral belief, but an understanding of what works for individuals and societies looking to tackle social problems.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting things to change. It’s about time they tried something different and get the lived experience voice.” Member of the Expert Link network
It is clear that to solve societal problems effectively, we must have as much information as possible of causes, context and solutions.
No-one will hold all the truth. Some may know what ‘public opinion’ is. Some may know what is politically viable. Some may know what is economically viable. Some may now what is practically viable. Some may know what has worked in the past, or in another location.
And some will know what has happened to them, what it felt like, how it affected them, how it could be different so that failures aren’t made to others.
“They bring value and real life facts to what is needed to know.” Member of the Expert Link network
“Humans are not very good at grasping the breadth of difficulties that being homeless entails unless they have experienced it first-hand (or indeed any form of suffering and social exclusion). That means well-meaning people miss important things, and this means that services are often designed and run in ways which ignore important facets of the needs of people who have lost their home. This then leads to ineffective services blaming homeless people for the poor outcomes, rather than looking at shortcomings of the actual service as being the reason outcomes are so poor. People with lived experience are absolutely crucial to enable services to self-evaluate completely holistically.” Member of the Expert Link network
“I often reflect, would we expect a food critic to provide constructive feedback about a meal without first tasting the food. Perhaps they could comment/review on many things about the meal, however by tasting and experiencing the food first hand it provides another dimension of useful info/improvements/authenticity about the review.” Member of the Expert Link network
“There is overwhelming evidence that co designed/produced solutions in the reduction of any issue is better when it comes from individuals with lived experience or who are experiencing the issue. This allows for a far more thought through, comprehensive solution, with a greater degree of empathy and understanding that comes with the experience.” Member of the Expert Link network
“Lived Experience will know what is working and what is not. System often is trying to do the right thing, but it is generally TO people rather than with. It would be a reality check and could challenge the way we think and do things.” Member of the Expert Link network
Local and national change
Our National Advisory Panel is testament to the quality of understanding and evidence that is available to us all.
People from around the country with experience of disadvantage discuss key issues and propose practical solutions that work. For example, our submission to the HCLG Select Committee brought together evidence on self-isolation and social distancing, access to mental health and substance misuse support, and access to food and basic goods - as well as proposing the practical and structural changes to funding, affordability and decision making processes that are needed.
And there are many other organisations who are championing the voice of lived experience and providing effective evidence nationally. In the run-up to the 2019 General Election, we had the pleasure or working with Expert Citizens and Groundswell to call for policy decisions to be made with the full participation of people affected by those decisions.
The abilities of individuals to provide the informed understanding we need is not in doubt. We call on all to ensure that the opportunities are provided so that we can design and deliver the effective solutions required to end rough sleeping.
Includes Conversations on Co-production, our free What is Co-production? webinar and three part online training event Co-production: the essential nuts and bolts.
Find out what's available and join us: https://www.expertlink.org.uk/training-and-events