A really empowering experience

By Sarah, Expert by Experience

I found about the Experts by Experience (EBE) programme on a note that went round; a list of interesting opportunities to help other people. So I called them up.

I live in Eastbourne and have been a service user of ESCC Adult Social Care for a number of years. The majority of my social workers have been brilliant, I have only had one bad experience but I wanted to be able to use my experiences to help in training and development of social workers.

I got a huge amount out of the training programme; it helped me to understand other people and other people's need. I learned a lot about other people and I grew in it as well. I learned about myself and how I feel about myself.

This has been my first opportunity to really feedback into the social work practice I have experienced. I think is really important to involve service users and carers in the education and recruitment of social workers because they can learn first-hand what it’s like to be us. Its fine social workers hearing about it and learning about it at university but to actually hear someone’s personal experience is incredibly valuable. It really prepares them for what it’s really like.

I have been involved in a couple of opportunities so far; reading portfolios, giving a talk to social workers about my experiences and putting forward the aims of our group. Reading the portfolios reignited my love for reading; before my accident I was a full-time nurse paramedic and during the training I did a lot of reading and it became something I no longer enjoyed. Reading the portfolios enabled me to see both sides of the coin; I have been a carer and a service user.

I have received fantastic support when taking part in these opportunities there’s always someone to explain things to me; for example social worker speak and acronyms. I have always felt really well looked and I was being listened which really made me feel good. And they have asked me to come back again and then again to give a talk to about 40 social workers.

I have teaching experience but I was a bit nervous about giving a talk as I haven’t taught for 18 years. It was interesting and I saw someone taking notes as I was talking; I felt really listened to and valued. I told them no matter whether you are dealing a drug addict or an adult being a pain you should always love your clients.

I am finding being part of the Experts by Experience programme is really helping me open up. I suffer from PTSD and its actually starting to help me to open up and talk about my accident. Its helped me to understand about social workers and what they go through. I personally feel like I have grown a little too.

I definitely want to keep being involved. It’s very important; not just for us to help social workers but for us personally to grow and learn. I also like the fact that I am helping others in some small way. If I give my experience hopefully it will help someone treat someone differently next time. I am so grateful to be a member of the EBE and Tracy is really fantastic.