Research – listening to those with lived experience.

Written by Clare Hollinshead

I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of months listening, absorbing and trying to wrap my head around some of the experiences those who have travelled the asylum path have been kind enough to share with me. In trying to establish the need, hopes and dreams for new services as I am doing in my role developing accommodation options for Refugees, there is no doubt that the voice of those with lived experience must be prominent and heard.

The first thing that has struck me is how often the lack of dignity and the feeling of being less than is expressed. I have heard how single people with no other support systems here in Wales, have so few options open to them. I have heard the frustrations and confusion over trying to seek support in a language and operating in a culture they don’t fully understand. I’ve seen the disappointment on faces as I explain how policy here works and the dawning realisation that life will be hard for many months to come for some of those I have spoken with.

I have walked away from a lot of those conversations feeling utterly overwhelmed and unable to know where to even start in finding solutions. The fixer in me wants to respond immediately. I am concerned that resources are far too stretched and limited for this cohort of people and there are no easy answers to offer those engaging in the research I have been conducting. However, I have learned a lot – I have reframed my work (it’s not my role to fix immediately but to be effective with long term solutions that meet their actual needs). I have adjusted my perspective (I am reminded of the person, not simply the data) and I have been able to recognise first-hand the need for the new guidelines we have developed here at Tai Pawb about how we will engage with those with lived experience.

Giving of one’s experience is no small thing and must be conducted with an absolute purpose in mind. Detailed reasoning and then feedback should be provided as to why engagement is important and valued. There is no room for tick boxing with a report written and left on a dusty shelf – dignity must be at the heart of all we do to produce outcomes meaningfully. Offering an exchange of skills, opportunities and/or payment for people’s time is non-negotiable and conducting interviews, surveys or focus groups in a way that is sensitive to the material being discussed is crucial.

These principles are seen in a lot of the theory many of our organisations embrace. There is nothing new about involving those who use services and yet I wonder if it is easy to forget how powerful it can be when done well. As such, like everything else we do, this process and the approach we adopt needs careful thought.

At Tai Pawb, we’re developing new principles for engaging meaningfully, this means:

  • We commit to questioning whether the circumstances are right.
  • We seek to get the approach right.
  • We reflect and refine every time and we provide recognition and promotion of what we have encountered.

Our recent engagement with Asylum Seekers and Refugees is a reminder of what we already know: People are the glue for all we do and engaging with those with lived experience is surely the way to get to the heart of the solutions that will lead us to true equity.


Clare Hollinshead
Housing Development Manager