RAMFEL: Developing our lived experience working group focusing on the 10 year route to settlement

RAMFEL took part in our EBE Project Planning mini course, here they describe the project they designed and how it has worked in practice and share their learning.

Organisation Profile

What were you hoping to achieve with this project? 

We were hoping to recruit an EBE co-ordinator and establish an EBE group that will help influence our campaign work. It is our belief that those with direct lived experience of the UK’s hostile immigration measures are best placed to dictate which changes would have the most impact. 

We decided to focus membership of this first working group, on those on the 10-year route to settlement, as it was felt this was where existing expertise within the organisation lay and where we had most clients. 

Through consultation and discussion, the group decided to focus on student finance and creating awareness of the issues faced by those on 3C leave. With this information and the group’s insight and experience, we plan to focus our campaign work towards advocating on these issues. This will be supported through increased capacity following the recruitment of an Advocacy Officer, who is due to commence his role in January 2023. 

What impact did it have or is it having?

Many people have showed interest in wanting to become members of our EBE group. At present we have 15 members, with the number growing. We are hoping to continue recruiting for new members through word of mouth and through our client base. 

Starting in January we will be having bi-weekly meetings with the group. The group will be influencing our campaign work especially on two priority areas; creating awareness on the 3C leave and; the right to student finance for people on the 10 year route. Whilst the organisation was already working on 3C leave issues, student finance is a new area of campaigning for us and is a direct result of the priorities expressed by group members.

What were the main challenges with this project?

Identifying the best time to meet for training sessions and meetings was a challenge in the beginning, but when you work together you can find a good mid-point. 

Although many members would love to come to all the training or meetings, their attendance is greatly influenced by their work and family commitments. Alternating meeting times can be helpful as it gives members options. Alternating between day meetings and evening meetings is helpful.

In general, we are moving at the right pace, putting good foundations in place for the group is important. We are building trust with the members and have been able to achieve a lot in a short time.

What practical tips would you give to others setting up a similar project?

Building trust in the beginning is crucial. The group members need to feel like they can trust you. One to one phone calls or chats are really helpful with this. This way you can start building trust with the group even before the meetings begin. Try not to rush the process, try and let the group lead the process.

How does this project change the way your organisation involves people with lived experience?

We are in a different position to where we were a few months ago. We now have an EBE Group Coordinator with lived experience in our organisation. In addition to that, we also have an EBE Group that really wants to get involved in our work which we did not have 6 months ago. Through this group RAMFEL has now come to learn about the student finance challenges experienced by people on the 10 year route to settlement. 

This is something that the organisation hadn’t thought about before now. We did not know how much this impacted our clients before it was raised by this group. 

We hope that this group will help us bring more things to light that we would have not thought of. This is why including people with lived experience is crucial for organisations.