This guest blog is the speech that my colleague Michael, one of our Ambassadors who has lived experience of using Shared Lives, gave to the School for Social Care Research conference with two other Ambassadors, James and Paul. The speech is about what being a peer researcher meant to him, but Michael also says something we should all listen to, about the value of his work to him and those he works with. Thanks Michael!
Hello I’m Michael
I am Shared Lives ambassador for Shared Lives Plus and I have been working as a peer researcher with the University of Kent.
The research project is about finding out what people who live with Shared Lives carers think about the support they get.
My colleagues James and Paul have talked about what we did and how we did it. I would like to talk about how the project has affected me personally.
When I went to do the first interview with two people and their carer I was having a really tough time personally.
Doing the interview gave me such a lift. I can’t describe how wonderful it felt. You are all probably used to it.
I think it is easy to forget how people you work with can help to cheer you up. Just going to work can make you feel so good about yourself.
I think this might depend on the job though.
I have loved everything about this work. The travelling has helped me become more independent now, this feels good to be honest. I can do a bit more now and I don’t have to rely on anyone. When I go somewhere with other staff members I can show them what to do.
I can do this because I am confident. I am not worrying because I know exactly what to do.
In the past I would have been anxious – worried. I think I would have been worked up. Not sure how to describe this.
I think if you want to involve people and really involve people so they are doing a proper job same as everyone in the team you have to do certain things such as:
You have to give people time
You have to be organised.
You have to be easy to contact.
You have to get back to people quickly.
You have to do what you say you will do.
Most important is that you really believe in what we are doing and that you give us chances.
As we find out we can do something, we get more confident and we want to do more, then you need to ask us to do more so we can keep on growing.
The more I have done the more better I have felt. The more I do for people the better life is for me. I think I am more better at helping other people than myself.
From doing this I have learned that to look after myself and to look after my feelings the type of work I need to do is all about helping other people to make their lives better. This helps me to cope with my life and my world when I am having a tough time.
I know Lyn who is my boss in Shared Lives Plus gets a big lift from working with me and the other ambassadors.
I didn’t really understand this at first until I experienced it myself.
For example, to do this job. Getting to know Nadia and Sinead and Grace and the other researchers has been good. How we did it is, we met up first and Lyn was there and all tried to get to know each other and started work a step at a time. This was helpful to me. I didn’t feel under pressure. I knew that they would do it at the right pace and if I was struggling I could just talk to them about it.
This meant when I was doing the actual interviews I was ready. I didn’t need Lyn. I just met with Grace and it was just lovely to be honest because I was able to work with someone else. I didn’t have to just rely on my boss I was able to work with other people.
To be honest it was more like focussing on the job really and making sure the people I was interviewing and the carers were happy.
Don’t get me wrong. Support is important to me. Without the support I would struggle. The support has been lovely. It has taken away the pressure so I can just focus on the job.
And that is what everyone has done to enable me to learn how to be a peer researcher.
If the story was about a Disney character. It would be the story of Ariel from the little mermaid. This is because she goes on a journey and she learns about herself and everyone else learns something too.
Everyone has got something out of it. We have learned from the researchers, they have learned plenty from us and we have worked well as a team. The people we have interviewed have been pleased with us because they have had their voices heard.
It was better for them to be interviewed by us because they can see we are like them. If they get interviewed just by professionals it can be worrying and frightening and scary. Like having a review or something. To have it from someone like me I think helped them to speak up more. I think as well that people seeing people like us doing a job like this absolutely made them feel more confident in what they could do too.
Thank you for listening.