Darren’s Insight Conference opening speech

By 29th December 2015 Expert Citizens No Comments
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Thank you to the Lord Mayor for opening today’s event also thank you to Mike Wolfe my good friend for keeping us all on time and chairing today’s proceedings.  I would also like to thank the big lottery fund for making all this possible, most of all I would like to thank all of you for giving up your valuable time for coming here today to talk about multiple needs, I really hope you all enjoy the day and gain something from your involvement.

Expert citizens are a group of individuals with lots of lived experience of, homelessness, mental ill health, offending, substance misuse and addiction. And much more, you can say we’ve got the T-shirts, and for many of us that’s all we’ve had in life. We’ve lived through benefit reforms and the frustrations of trying to access the right services.

I think back to December 2012 when I was released from prison, 48 quid in my back pocket, no accommodation. Just given a phone number and an address for a local charity in Stoke-on-Trent. I found it really difficult to access the right benefits I found myself relying on food banks and handouts. I could have picked the phone up to get involved in my old networks, which would’ve been the easy option at that time especially when it took weeks and weeks to get my right benefits in place.

I was lucky I was able to access a service and a support worker.  I can stand here now and tell you this it was a real dark time for me and my mental health was deteriorating. However I stayed strong, for some people living with multiple needs they would have found this difficult and maybe would not have been so fortunate. They may have found it difficult to access the right services and to stay engaged, services may find it difficult to engage with them, in many ways expert citizens are survivors and for many of us we know many who haven’t survived.

Today is our very first insight awards, where we will celebrate people services and organisations. Who welcome who are listening learning and leading with people with multiple needs, we are also acknowledging people and services in the private sector with our outstanding achievement award.  We are grateful to those people and organisations that are setting examples based on solutions people’s assets and aspirations. Denial of services for people with multiple needs is not a sustainable option or in my mind acceptable. With people experiencing exclusion from housing, health and social care services all too often.

The outcomes are extra pressures and strains put onto accident and emergency department’s police custody suite and fire and rescue services. For some people, the outcome is a 21st-century poverty trap, of exclusion and reliance on expensive emergency services.  However we are seeing the beginnings of joined up work in relation to people with multiple needs locally, the Voices of Stoke partnership and Stoke on Trent council cooperative working project amongst. Others nationally such as the every adult matters coalition, the 12 fulfilling lives areas, the work from Homeless Link and Lankelly Chase.

We believe by improving services for the most vulnerable and excluded that we improve services for everybody.  It would be easy to point to the current economic difficulties in the public sector and say nothing can be done. But like I said before, not providing services merely shifts down to over services similarly denial of services does not manage risk it usually increases risks to individuals concerned and often shifts risks back in to communities.  We have hundreds of people here today experienced in housing, social care, policing, probation, support and caring services. We are all leaders in our work attitudes and behaviours. Leaders of our colleagues and managers. Leaders of our friends and relatives. We don’t need permission to change, we just need to change how we can work together, to change what we can’t alone and build a better future for us all.

Today we have organised workshops for you, Expert Citizens and Voices have highlighted several areas for your attention and expertise. We are asking you to put on your thinking hats and take part in this conversation that will lead to local changes. These changes may be small and the conversations may lead to bigger systematic changes in the future but collectively they will make a big difference to Stoke-on-Trent.

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