Hi, I’m Stan Burridge (Director) I just want to give you a brief introduction to EXPERT FOCUS and a little bit about the journey to this point.
For me, it began many years ago in the care system, a child trapped, silenced by a faceless bureaucracy, denied a voice and unable to have any influence on the ‘care’ which I was getting. This continued when I was homeless, invisible, unheard. It seemed that unless you have a suit and an education, you just aren’t listened to.
Throughout my life I have often felt I didn’t have a voice, or my opinion meant nothing, and I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t a personal thing, nobody who was in ‘care’ at that time or sleeping rough was allowed to have an opinion.
A lightbulb moment came in the 1990’s when I was living in a hostel which was being closed down. There was no consultation with those who were living there and no platform for us to be heard. So, over a coffee, three of us decided, if we weren’t going to be given a voice, we will just have to take it for ourselves so we formed R.A.G. (Residents Action Group) this was later to grow into Groundswell.
We quickly gained the support of the hostel and found a temporary home and support from C.H.A.R (now Homeless Link) We started a campaign and using The Big Issue had a petition which we delivered to the House of Commons. Although we were unsuccessful in keeping the hostel open, we were very successful in being heard.
I think the mix of fear and anger led to us forming R.A.G. The main thing it showed was that when people with lived experience come together in a structured way, and share a common aim, they can have a voice and influence change.
In my previous role, leading the Experts by Experience programme at Pathway, harnessing the voice of lived experience was key to the successes which had. Listening and learning from homeless people about what healthcare systems are like for them. This allowed us to have a positive impact on healthcare services and at the same time influence involvement programmes across Europe with FEANTSA.
Now leading Expert Focus, I want to continue bringing people together, build a platform for the voices of people with lived experience of all forms of social exclusion. I want to piece together a structure where together we can work hard and influence real, sustainable change.