Hi my Name is Desmond. I would like to share my story about how I found the EBE Network, or more how it found me actually.
How I heard about the Experts by Experience (EBE) Network
I was attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Newcastle in January of this year and after the meeting I was offered a lift to another meeting in the area by a guy in the fellowship. On route to the next meeting he asked me “have you heard of the EBE Network?” He told me the Network is people who meet each week to discuss topics around four main social issues: mental health, substance misuse, homelessness and criminal justice. The purpose of the network is to take these people’s lived experience around these issues to bring about change and lobby organisations to make things better.
Wow. I was immediately interested in such an approach.
What difference can I make?
I in no way think I am a professional expert but I do have lived experience and the way it was put to me made perfect sense: that people with lived experience do have a voice to be heard and the way services are run, sometimes by statistical data and social work models and set scenarios compiled by academics, is not necessarily the best way to deal with and tackle the core issues the EBE is addressing
It’s not about giving the power to the people, it’s about listening to informed and valued voices of the very people services are aiming to help. Lived experience can really give a true insight to what’s actually going on in these areas and where they are failing. We live in a world where the dynamics of such burning social issues need new radical and outside-the-box approaches for change and to me that is what the EBE Network is all about.
What difference has the EBE Network made to me?
Six weeks previous to getting involved with the EBE I was isolated in my flat in the depths of addiction and mental health and through working a programme of recovery six weeks later I was sitting in meetings discussing the very issues I was tackling myself. Experts by Experience gives me a platform to learn new skills, interact with people and revisit old skills in a very short space of time. I am very grateful to the person who introduced me to the Network. The friends I have made, what I have learned and what I can learn in the future and could lead to vocational opportunities. It is fun too.
The EBE Network and Covid
I went back into the madness during lockdown but EBE never stopped contacting me and through the grace of God and good peers I am back in a programme of recovery and involved with the EBE again because they retained contact with me which I am so grateful for. EBE did not stop when Covid arrived and the issues they deal with are still there, or getting worse. We need change and if you have lived experience of substance misuse, mental health, homelessness or criminal justice the Network is a fantastic way to try and make a difference locally and nationally. I love it and I will definitely be staying connected.
This article originally featured in the Summer 2020 Experts by Experience Newsletter.