The passion of lived experience

David Breakspear on an empowering day chairing a RECONNECT event

Is it even possible to measure passion?

Since my release from prison in 2017 I have had some lows, I can’t deny that, but wow! I have also had some fantastic highs. Legal ones at that. I’ve replaced the memories of a lot of things I wish I could forget with memories I hope I’ll never forget. I suppose there are far worse things out there to become addicted to or obsessed with than being addicted to creating unforgettable memories whilst pushing for systematic change to the criminal justice system. Addiction? Obsession? Call it what you will, I prefer to think of it, however, as passion.

Passion can only take you so far. It also means nothing if there is nowhere to utilise that passion. Passion can fade, but as every action and so on, it can also grow.

Is it even possible to measure passion?

This for me, is why Revolving Doors Agency (RDA) are simply the best at what they do. Not only do Revolving Doors allow people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, and especially people who have experienced the revolving door of crisis and crime to utilise their passion to influence change based on their own experiences but because of the work members at RDA become involved in and the impact we can see our voices have by sharing our experiences to those that matter – the people who draw up and develop procedures, practices, and policies – the passion grows more so.

Also, who better to include in those processes than the voices and experiences of the people most impacted by the procedures, practices and policies being developed? Or, to metaphorically hold the hand of those following behind on a similar path through peer support.

Yesterday (Monday, December 6) provided me with an experience which I can only describe as lived experience involvement on steroids. Another member of the lived experience team (LET) at RDA, Emma, and I, co-chaired an online learning and development day about RECONNECT on behalf of NHS England and NHS Improvements, Health in Justice team. Previously, at similar events, a member of the LET would co-chair with someone from the Health in Justice team, and/or we would have a slot on the agenda to present the views of the LET at the event. This is the first-time that two members of the LET co-chaired an event and the message that sends out regarding the impact the voices, and experiences, of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system should be shouted from the roof tops.

The aims of the RECONNECT learning and development event were:

  • To provide an update on the RECONNECT programme and national roll out.
  • To share the new central repository for RECONNECT.
  • To explore and understand the importance of peer involvement within RECONNECT.
  • To hear the positive impact that RECONNECT can have on individuals.
  • To gain an understanding of the Recruitment Guidance developed by the national team.


In the first part of the event, we had four speakers from the Health in Justice team. We had a presentation from Kate Morrissey, national implementation lead for RECONNECT who spoke about the national rollout and the process behind the development and signing off, of the national minimum specifications. Kate was followed by Suzanne Nunn, long term plan project officer who took the audience of 80 through the RECONNECT national referral form. Suzanne was followed by Jonathan Briggs, an information, and data analyst, who presented the RECONNECT dataset. To bring the first part to a close we had Pavandeep Bansal, project officer, who showed us the RECONNECT NHS Futures Platform.

The second part of the event was where we got to hear from people with lived experience and who are involved in projects up and down England. It is difficult to explain the impact the second part had on the whole event. To be able to understand it, you would have had to had experienced it. It was not only powerful and impactful, but it was also extremely inspiring and a pleasure to have been a part of. Even more so from my perspective of co-chairing the event with another person who has lived experience of the criminal justice system, Emma.

What an incredible empowering day for lived experience.

I believe the question should no longer be:

‘Why should we involve people with lived experience?’

Instead it should be:

‘Why wouldn’t we involve people with lived experience?’   


You can follow David on LinkedIn here.


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