Connecting and Learning with Local Organisations

Staffordshire University works in partnership with Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES; a local Big Lottery funded project in the national Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple needs programme. Customers of VOICES experience a combination of homelessness, mental ill-health, substance misuse and offending. Their lives have been seriously affected by events and conditions over a prolonged period and, as a result, may present frequently at emergency health care facilities, drug and alcohol services, homelessness or mental health services.

Recently, Anna Mather (VOICES) and Lee Dale (Expert Citizens C.I.C.) joined our Sociology and Criminology undergraduate students to talk through the Solution Focused and Asset Based Approach that they use with customers. Students had the opportunity to learn from customers about their experiences of substance misuse and they found out about services at VOICES and in Stoke-on-Trent that have helped them to significantly change their life.

VOICES and expert Citizens C.I.C. use customer stories to help to improve services across the City and to educate people in the issues faced by customers experiencing multiple needs.

The group of Sociology and Criminology students – from within the School of Law, Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University – who attended the session with VOICES, are on an option module (“working with drug users”) learning how to work with people who experience substance misuse within the criminal justice system and community. This module offers theoretical knowledge alongside skills development in delivering drugs education and therapeutic interventions. Learning from best practice from local service providers assists our students in being work ready.

VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C. also have a work ethos that staff and volunteers have lived experience of the needs that customers face as well as training their customers as Expert Citizen Educators that deliver training. This means that students get to learn from people who have personal experience of overcoming issues, as well as working with others to address their problems. Students enjoyed being able to ask questions and learn from the experiences that Anna and Lee have had in working with substance misuse. People’s stories are powerful educational tools. To hear stories from VOICES click here.

Scarlett, one of the second-year students, stated “I found the session really interesting and beneficial. Hearing Lee’s story was inspiring and makes you realise the importance of support work for substance abusers.”

Lauren, a third-year student, commented that “having VOICES in class today was super intriguing and stimulating. Listening to Lee’s story was inspiring and practical that presented the enormous lengths people can come with the correct support being given”.

Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at Staffordshire University, commented “it is great having external organisations come onto campus and share with students about their work and experience. It inspires students and helps them to envisage future career paths, as well as helping them to think about work placement and dissertation research opportunities. The asset-based approach to working with substance misuse is a positive way to engage people in making significant life changes. VOICES have used this approach successfully with their customers and hearing a real-life success story gave students a better appreciation for what can be achieved. VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C. provided a brilliant lecture today and we look forward to continuing to do work with them. ”

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