A Week in the life of a beneficiary ambassador – by Lee Orrell

As part of the APPG Complex Needs & Dual Diagnosis call for evidence on Social Action, NECG member Lee Orrell wrote about his experience as a beneficiary ambassador at Opportunity Nottingham.

There are four Ambassadors at Opportunity Nottingham, we all take a lead in different areas and specialities, which consist of, but are not limited to: women’s issues, BME, housing, offending, homelessness, mental health and substance misuse, but we interchange dependant on what is being asked of us at the time. Our core work though, is to engage with Expert Citizens, arranging meetings and keeping them informed on the project and any consultation that we may be asked to do.

Trying to pin down a typical week for us is not easy; we may start the week by undertaking national interviews with CFE research on behalf of the BLF, make a few phone calls to Expert Citizens, reminding and informing them off any meetings or consultations. Buy biscuits, the power of a Hob Hob and Digestive cannot be ignored.

Most weeks consist of one of us giving a presentation, or attending a conference somewhere in the country, keeping us updated on current affairs, and example of this is Housing First, and how that can be incorporated into Opportunity Nottingham. We keep and get involved in local issues and projects, such as mental health week, and BME initiatives. We recently made up over 60 goody bags and pamper products to give out to female beneficiaries for women’s day.  Currently with Experts and ourselves we are working on voting, how the homeless can do this and register, and what that actually means.

As the week progresses we may meet with different commissioners, who may request some feedback from our Expert Citizens.  We will have an Ambassador Team meeting; attend a full staff meeting, and an Expert group meeting.  As a team, and with partners, we have been delivering a lecture, to different Universities named, Engagement Why Bother?  With the hope to demonstrate the value of incorporating consultation with people, who have lived experience, to future policy makers and professionals.  We may plan the delivery of the lecture, or give one.   Opportunity Nottingham is developing a Practice Development Unit with partners, to help share learning, an Ambassador is heavily involved with this, and Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE).  Both of which require regular meetings and updates.  We may work on the Pledge (a way of being treated) and plan the role out of this.  Most weeks involve some shortlisting and interviewing for new members of staff, or having lived experience on the panel of our partners in the interview process. Most weeks involve some sort of promotion or updating information, so a meeting with communications worker is a regular occurrence. As are meetings with the data officer, who often tells us  data is fun !

The week may incorporate a meeting with the CDP (commissioners, the Crime and Drug partnership) attended by Experts and Ambassadors with Opportunity Nottingham, we are currently working on the Blue Light Project (helping entrenched drinkers) and the newly re-commissioned drug and alcohol service (NRN). We are conducting local interviews for the BLF, so work is ongoing with Nottingham Trent University conducting interviews with peer researchers taken from  people with lived experience and beneficiary’s, this also involves regular workshops and updates.  After reading and replying to a multitude of emails, we may finish the week by taking experts Citizens for a game of crazy golf or bowling, as our appreciation for all their time and effort they have given for the project.