Our last post “The glass ceiling” came out of a conversation at our National Advisory Panel whose members are from around the country, all having lived experience of homelessness and / or complex needs.

The post stated that “in our experience there is a glass-ceiling for people with lived experience of homelessness. As well as ways of working being discouraged, there is a stigma around what people can achieve and what roles people can take”.

For me this raised a huge question, “why did they say that?” Apart from the obvious, that they believe it, it set me thinking about my own personal journey and those of others across our wider network. Although the following answer is a generalisation and not necessarily true, it is a great place for us to start to think and talk about the question.

When you grow up in a loving and nurturing environment you take on beliefs about yourself that are positive and you are encouraged to explore, grow and learn. You develop into confident well rounded human beings that can overcome life’s challenges and go on to be successful in your chosen career.

Most people with lived experience (LE) come into the voluntary sector to give back, but their ability to do so is sometimes hindered by the system because of their lack of progress through the education system and personal development.

When you look at the childhood stories of those with LE they are often negative, even traumatic. At those times in people’s lives when they should be getting the best out of the education system and from a loving supportive family, growing and flourishing as young men and women, the LE stories are often very different.

The majority of those with LE of multiple disadvantages grew up learning how to survive in challenging environments. Poverty, addictions stress and mental illness were often present, with some growing up as victims of abuse and domestic violence. They developed in the best way that they could, given the circumstances. Some may not have got the best out of the education system, but they learnt skills and developed an intuition that you cannot teach others and that could serve us all well.

As a sector I believe that we should be recognising this and do our best to help fill in the gaps where they exist, and in doing so remove any glass ceilings.

One of the things that I am conscious of is the lack of professional personal development opportunities available for those with lived experience. Although Expert Link cannot fill all the gaps on the more formal education and training, all of our training courses have a personal development element to them.

We do this because the sector appears to forget this part of any human development in our training regimes. The sector is great at teaching processes, we can even support people back into formal education, but we are terrible at developing the human.

We forget about the negative labels and beliefs that people have had ingrained into their psyche and the affects. We forget how important the things that “normal” children learn naturally when growing up and how they form a crucial part of developing; learning how to love and trust yourself and those around you; learning how to stretch yourself so that you can grow; learning to explore without fear; developing confidence and positive beliefs about yourself. These things aren’t external processes, they are developed internally as we grow.

I was fortunate along my journey of recovery from drug addiction I as had both the opportunity and resources to attend courses that filled the gaps left from a traumatic childhood. Did it stop me from becoming homeless and living on the streets, absolutely not? But I know I would be not be here today without that training, I would have remained stuck.

When people who have attended our courses go off and publish books, set up their own charities, host radio shows and podcasts or become influencers within their own communities I know that what I think and feel to be right is right.

I also know that there are some people with lived experience who have managed to become successful in their own right, overcoming any challenges or barriers that their lived experience may have thrown up. This, however, is not the norm. As a sector we should be doing everything that we can to make it the norm… that is of course unless you think otherwise.

For further reference can I invite you to research Attachment Theory and also the writing of Gabor Mate