What is Co-Production?
After being unemployed for 13 years, I joined Fulfilling Lives as a volunteer on their Service User Panel. After being in the group for approximately 6 months, a vacancy for a job as a Project Consultant Assistant became available. I applied and got the job.
Starting work after being unemployed for so long was a big adjustment, changing everything like finances, physical and mental health and personal relationships. Doing a Wellness Action Plan, regular supervision and support from colleagues, all helped with this transition.
There are good training courses on offer when working with Fulfilling Lives, a number of which I have been on. These have given me more knowledge and confidence in what I am doing in both my professional and personal life.
I have had opportunities to attend conferences and learning events, as well as take part in presentations, and have sometimes helped volunteers to give presentations. I have also sat on interview panels and co-facilitated the delivery of training courses to volunteers.
I have learned new skills like group facilitation and mentoring, and refreshed other skills like using the computer and administration. I have gained confidence in being more sociable with people, using the telephone and travelling to other towns, which were things that I had stopped doing previously.
I have been working with Fulfilling Lives for just over a year now. With the vast improvement in my mental health and the new skills I have gained, I feel confident that when I am looking for further employment when my contract with Fulfilling Lives ends, I will be in a much better place than I was before I became involved with them.
My introduction to Fulfilling Lives (FL) was through the BHT website. An advertisement for the role of a Project Consultant Assistant (PCA), had been brought to my attention. I was encouraged by staff at another project where I was coming to the end of an internship to apply - I was very unsure! The final date for applications was fast approaching so I made some enquiries and was nervous. I remember quite clearly that the Service User Engagement Coordinator with FL was more than happy for me to make a last-minute application after responding to my initial email promptly. I felt valued.
The support and guidance I received from that point onwards from FL staff and volunteers was evident and this has gone on to empower me to take healthy risks. My nerves and levels of anxiety were crippling during the whole process of the job application. Dealing with health complications was not seen as a barrier for being part of FL and I relished that. I was offered an interview and, although I tried my best at that time, I was unsuccessful. When I got the call to inform me of the outcome I made myself feel like I was not good enough and that really hurt me. Nevertheless, I was given some tools by staff at FL to look at my situation for what it was, and shown that I could develop in certain areas if I wanted too.
Within a matter of days, I was back at the FL offices getting feedback on my interview. This was so insightful! Better still, I was invited to the Action Group, to see if I wanted to progress, learn and be part of a group of volunteers who ranged from people who were service users to those who had lived experiences – or both! Working alongside their multiple complex needs while influencing powerful and long-term changes to numerous services and systems was something the group were passionate about. I am very proud of my time as a volunteer; being able to complete my internship and become part of FL was a great way to consider possible goals for my future.
Another opportunity to apply for the PCA job came up. I was made aware of this by FL staff and volunteers alike and was indecisive as to how I was going to proceed. My Personal Independent Payment (PIP) was being reviewed and I was waiting for some surgical equipment to alleviate my challenges around bowel incontinence. I was fearful about the immediate future. The space available within the Action Group each week that allows my peers and I to share our circumstances and identify how we feel enabled me to get specific support. FL signposted me towards securing advocacy for my PIP review (amazing), and provided guidance in updating and resubmitting a second job application for the PCA position.
A certain individual at FL played a particularly significant role in my securing employment. I had come to a point where I was not going to apply for the PCA position again. My circumstances around finances and health had begun to take their toll. The day prior to the submission being completed I was contacted by one of the PCA’s to see how I was getting on. I stated that I was not going to be applying after all and they simply said, ‘The team will support you and I think you’re ready’. This was so powerful for me to hear. I applied once more, was offered an interview and got the job.
I am blown away with the current situation I find myself in today. 22 months ago, my future had been non-existent and I clearly presented as unemployable. The complexity of my needs had not been addressed. The steps that the FL project has taken to help me become employable again have been implemented delicately - I have been able to gradually acknowledge the big part my lived experiences can (and do) play to support and improve the lives of others. The PCA that reached out to me is now my colleague! Thank you so much.
“I joined the Fulfilling Lives Action Group (FLAG) last year when after a relapse I was making my first steps back into recovery. I was determined to change my life, not only for me but also for my daughter. I felt depressed thinking how many people I’ve hurt, and had completely lost my self-esteem and confidence trying to prove to social services that I can be a good mum.
Coming to FLAG and being able to share my experiences without being judged helped me to start believing in myself.
I have made new friendships with other Action Group members, which has given me a sense of belonging and being part of something positive.
Within a few months I was sharing my opinion and views with no fear of being misunderstood, but with confidence that I am being heard and that what I say is valued and appreciated.
I realised that my experience, which I always felt so negative about, can help to make positive changes.
I started to trust myself and got involved in many other things such as evaluating services at Pavillions, being part of an interview panel, and helping to set up a drop-in service for homeless women at First Base. I also participated in different events and workshops, and attended training sessions.
I have had the opportunity to get to know services in the area, and understand their vision and how they work, which helped me to identify what I am passionate about and where I would love to work in the future.
Volunteering for Fulfilling Lives helped me change and grow as a person, and with the support and encouragement from other Action Group members I became confident to take on new challenges, start other courses and set goals for the future.”