Service user, client, customer, patient, ex-offender, offender, prisoner, criminal, A1726AY, number, addict, junkie, coke-head, alcoholic, drunk, referral, claimant, benefit scrounger, benefit cheat, resident, occupant, mentally ill, manic depressive, nutter, blind, blind idiot, partially sighted, visually impaired, four eyes, disabled, Spastic, Dyslexic, problem child, brain dead, stupid, thick, naughty.
These are just a few of the labels that have been given to me over the last 30 years by many people, and some professionals.
One of my first childhood memories is back in the late 70’s; I was about six years old. I was told that I was going away for short while to a special needs school in Coventry. Oh by the way, the short time was 11 years.
From then I found myself mixed up in the world of addiction and crime for almost 20 years. I went to prison in 2010 for conspiracy to supply class A drugs. In prison there was no real support for me with my disabilities. I was released from prison in December 2012; I really didn’t know what I was going to do with myself!
I was invited to attend a focus group in 2013 where I was told about a great, new, amazing vision. Someone like myself, a real person living with multiple complex needs, as a voice of real lived experience, to help others in this city (of Stoke).
Since becoming an expert citizen my life has become so much better, and I have achieved so much over the last 18 months – an NVQ level 3 Advice and Guidance, which to me, is the biggest achievement in my life apart from my children. I enrolled on an ICT level 2 Functional Skills, also completed my brighter futures foundation in support work, and for the first time in my life I am looking forward to the future. Now, I’ve been given the opportunity to share my story and experiences to help promote service change in the city.
The Big Lottery Fund is supporting people with multiple needs by investing up to £112 million across 12 areas of England. People with multiple needs are central to the project plans and delivery and have been involved at every stage of the journey to set up this funding programme.
That is why we set up the Expert Citizens' national group - to bring these people together and help them find the confidence to share their stories.
Darren Murinas is an expert citizen for Voices, the Stoke partnership supporting people with multiple needs.