Tyler is a former customer turned dedicated and active volunteer with Look Ahead’s Co-Production Team.
I first came to Look Ahead as a customer at a young people’s service where I stayed for around 18 months. During that time, I got involved as a volunteer with Look Ahead’s Co-Production Team, and although I’m no longer a customer, I’m still volunteering now.
Initially I volunteered on the Tenant and Landlord Panel (TALP) which is a quarterly meeting with customers from different types of services, Look Ahead staff including Senior Leadership and Board members – and where appropriate – external partners like contractors. It is an interesting meeting where we discuss and make decisions about important matters, such as repairs and how best to work together to improve the service.
I really enjoyed the role and the positive results I could achieve. This inspired me to join the Customer Incidents Panel which was set-up last year. Due to the nature and complexity of Look Ahead services, incidents come with the territory. This panel is all about looking at these and learning from them. We pick out the good, the bad and the ugly and discuss them. The main reason I joined is that I want to make sure that those learnings, if there are any to be had, are taken on board, and followed up with actions to make sure that mistakes are not repeated.
Being part of the panel has really helped me to develop my analytical skills, to assess the facts and come up with solutions. It’s also given me insight into different parts of Look Ahead and how an organisation like this runs. I’m then able to improve things and help others.
I now chair that panel with Mike Bansback, the Head of Safeguarding and Quality. As a co-chair my role is to make sure conversations are useful and focused, but also to make sure everyone feels comfortable. The other panellists are current or former customers, and I use my experience of being in a service to help participants feel more confident to speak up at the meetings.
I’ve also started volunteering through the peer support programme. This involves going into services and supporting customers alongside the paid staff. I’m now starting to understand the staff side of the equation as well, being on the ground and seeing how services are run. Even in the short time I’ve been doing peer support, although the customers don’t really know me, I know that they feel like they can come talk to me because they know I’ve experienced similar things to them.
I’ve built relationships and a network of people across Look Ahead, which means if I pick up on something, I can share it and see if there’s anything that can be done to make it right.
If you are a customer or have lived experience and you are thinking about volunteering, I would say “do it!” All the volunteers I’ve met in this role have found it beneficial, enjoyable and you will feel good after you’ve done it. You’re then in a better place to help yourself and others, which I think is such a powerful thing. Trust me, it feels good. You just need to push yourself a little bit.