supporting, developing and representing community groups,
voluntary organisations, social enterprises and volunteering
Lived Experience Team
Growth Through Partnership
The Lived Experience Team (LET) is an inclusive group of volunteers who have experienced mental health challenges (personally or as a family member, a friend, or a colleague), trauma and/or unemployment made worse by a range of barriers or life experiences.
We are active volunteers with a clear and exciting goal to improve service design and delivery across Fife. We have a particular focus on contributing to the growth and improvement of health and social care, employability services, and workplace policies and practices around mental health.
We are always looking for new recruits, if you would like to gain a better understanding of what we do, find out how to get involved or want to engage our services to bring the voice of experience into public policy, service design and staff training, then read on - we hope you will find the information you need.
Volunteers for the Lived Experience Team work with strategic planning partners, academics, service providers, employers, and frontline staff across Fife and beyond. Our volunteering helps to ensure that the voice of experience is heard and taken notice of. We are supported to do that through a dedicated Co-ordinator, 1:1 and peer support, regular contact with each other through monthly meetings, and training.
Fife's Lived Experience Team support the development of public policy, service design and delivery, and academic research in several different ways depending on volunteers' interests and the opportunities available. Volunteering can be for a short, one-off activity or engagement in a more sustained programme of work. It is very much up to you!
All of this work is made possible due to the funding we receive from Agnes Hunter Trust and Fife Council through No One Left Behind.
Some examples of things the LET have supported are outlined below:
Public Policy: LET volunteers contributed to the Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee Inquiry into the role of Scottish social security in the social and economic recovery from COVID-19, andthe development of the Fife Mental Health Strategy 2020-24:
"In winter 2020 the Community Outreach Team (now PACT) at the Scottish Parliament worked with Fife Voluntary Action as part of an inquiry into the Social Security response to Covid 19. It was essential to hear from people directly impacted: those who had been either in receipt of benefits or who had been recently made unemployed; and were under-represented, from easy to ignore groups; people with lived and worked experience (such as frontline workers). We were especially concerned to involve people where there were barriers to participate. We worked in partnership alongside several third sector organisations to hear from these groups.
It is essential for our work in involving under-represented and protected groups in the scrutiny process to work with trusted partners. This type of partnership work ensures that we can include some of the most marginalised and excluded members of our society in the decision and policy making process that affect them. We are very grateful to FVA and the Lived Experience Team, who were very welcoming and lovely, it was a genuine pleasure to work with them and we would be delighted to do so again."
Scottish Parliament - Participation and Communities Team
Local service design/delivery: The team contributed to the design of Fife's Personality Disorder Pathway and the ongoing redesign of the MoodCafe website. These were relatively short engagements. Other opportunities have been quite intensive such as linking with Fife Centre for Equalities to co-design and co-facilitate Collaborative Conversations which informed employability service commissioning through No One Left Behind (NOLB) Fife.
This was such a positive experience that this work then got extended with volunteers assessing bids as part of a Lived Experience Panel; and places being reserved for two LET volunteers on the Oversight and Scrutiny Panel assessing the quality of those service provisions. A representative of Skills Development Scotland described the work of the lived experience volunteers in the NOLB process as follows:
"The Lived Experience voice was invaluable in the NOLB bid evaluation process. It brought a new lens to the panel and showed real commitment from volunteers to bring their experiences, words, and thoughts to the table, all of this helped as we considered the impact of provision on all our communities in Fife. Thank you to the volunteers for being willing to share their experiences and help shape provision for people on a similar journey."
".. the materials..look absolutely amazing!...You've all put an incredible amount of work into this."
The Health Promotion Officer, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership
Staff/workplace training: LET volunteers bring their voice of experience to add a personal dimension to staff training which lifts it beyond the day-to-day and can make it truly transformational.
"It added the human element"
".valuable and interesting"
".more effective than being given hypotheticals"
".significantly enhances theory", and
"It puts perspective into practice"
Participants at mental health and employability training
Academic Research: whether it be contributing to evaluability workshops, acting as peer researchers or sense-checking findings, LET volunteers have supported multiple research projects. They help ensure research findings are relevant and keep academics feet well and truly on the ground:
"We are delighted to be working with Fife Voluntary Action's Lived Experience Team on our Community Panel in Scotland. Our research programme builds modelling tools to tackle health inequalities and improve conditions for a healthy society. The Lived Experience Team's voices of experience inform and challenge our research in invaluable ways."
The Public Engagement Lead on the Systems science In Public Health and Economic Research (SIPHER) group, University of Edinburgh)
Who can be a Lived Experience Team Volunteer?
We welcome people who have experienced disadvantage relating to gaining or sustaining work for any reason. This could include but is not limited to experience of childhood trauma, issues with substance use, age, disability (including mental health challenges), a history of offending, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, and experience of disadvantage as a family (including lone parents).
In a nutshell then, the goal of the Lived Experience Team is to contribute perspectives from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible. And to bring that experience forward at multiple levels - from service planning to service delivery - to improve positive outcomes for people who experience or have experienced challenges regarding the above characteristics.
You do not need any prior experience of this kind of volunteering to get involved.
In fact even better if you don't!
All you need is a willingness and desire to make a difference. Join the team and take the opportunity to turn your struggles into strengths that you can share to help others.
What is involved in being a Lived Experience Team volunteer?
You might be wondering what being a LET volunteer involves. The truth is every volunteer's experience is different. The number of hours people volunteer for, and the activities they engage in, are tailored to each individual's interests and experiences.
The Team meets once a month to catch up on what has been happening and to support each other on their volunteering journey.
Volunteers are under no obligation, and there is no formal requirement to commit to attending meetings, but those who do participate find it very helpful in building a sense of camaraderie as well as providing a means of sharing their LET volunteering roles.
"I discussed the issues I felt held me back in my pursuit of work. This challenged me to.question and justify my perceptions and the potential harm that they cause.my self-awareness [increased] and I feel as though I have become more empowered and in control of my own future".
"Being involved in No One Left Behind has been life-changing for me"
What support do Lived Experience Team volunteers receive?
Day to day support and supervision - including identifying training needs - is provided by the Lived Experience Team Coordinator, who builds a close working relationship with LET volunteers. Examples of support include the following:
• Each LET Volunteer will participate in a one-to-one meeting with the LET Coordinator to discuss the Volunteer's particular interests and how they fit with the goals and objectives of the LET
• LET Volunteers can arrange additional one-to-one interviews to discuss their volunteering, changes they might wish to make, training they'd like to participate in, etc.
• An initial induction meeting involving other LET members, both new and experienced covers how the Lived Experience Team fits into FVA; how we interact with other organisations - such as the NHS and Employability Services; how we fit together as LET members, including our shared agreement, and how we stay safe
• We hold a monthly LET meeting, run on alternative months by the LET Coordinator and the LET themselves - in the latter, we encourage a looser structure, perhaps with an activity, for example using airdry clay to make models, ornaments, etc.
• We also consider how making the most of our experiences, skills, knowledge, etc., will help us to operate better as a Team through:
• Getting to know each other
• Staying connected with each other
• Sharing ideas
• Participating in the LET monthly meetings, which are run by the LET Coordinator and the Volunteers themselves on alternate months
• By value your own and each other's experiences.
Volunteers are supported to access training to enable them to make better use of their experiences in the context of Team Experience, including:
• How to challenge stigma and discrimination
• Developing self-awareness and self-management to improve self-confidence
• Speaking in public
• Working in groups
• Making and appearing in videos
• Giving and conducting interviews
• Coordinating discussion around specific topics.
All reasonable travel expenses will be re-reimbursed.
We hope the information on this page answers your questions about becoming a member of the Lived Experience Team. That said, please don't hesitate to get in touch with the LET Coordinator if you have more questions and/or you'd like to discuss joining the Team.
Want to engage our services?
As demonstrated above the Lived Experience Team can support and enhance your research, policy work, service design and staff training!
Our tagline is 'Growth through Partnership' because we believe that when we work together, bringing the insight of experience with the knowledge of professionals, then everyone gains.
If you are interested in drawing on the experiences and expertise of members of the LET to help you achieve your objectives, please contact FVA using [email protected] and with Lived Experience Team in the subject-line.