So, a bit about me. My name is Dominic Ruffy and I am the ‘Resilience Programmes Director’ at the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Having overcome 22 years of addiction to Class A substances, I began volunteering in the recovery field three years ago, advocating for more government funding to help people  access residential rehabilitation. During the course of that work I was invited to a Big Lottery Fund event where they presented their flagship ‘Fulfilling Lives: Multiple Complex Needs’ programme. The Big Lottery Fund (BLF) wanted to work with current and former service-users to create better local systems to support people with complex needs.

This really caught my attention! I was fortunate enough to live very close to Blackpool, which was one of the areas BLF invited to bid for a slice of the action. I set about designing a means by which Blackpool could engage with their service user community to help them shape local treatment systems to ultimately deliver better services and better outcomes for those service users.

One thing led to another and I was invited to sit on the panel that determined which areas received funding; and I am now a member of the external reference committee that offers guidance to the programmes delivering services for people who are homeless, dealing with addiction, have mental health issues or are persistent re-offenders.

During the midst of all that I met the Winehouses following the tragic passing of their daughter Amy. Mitch and Jane Winehouse wanted to set up an education programme in schools, talking to students about the reasons why people misuse substances. Mitch and Jane were absolutely certain the best people to lead these workshops and presentations were people in recovery, like me! To cut a long story short I was offered a role at the Amy Winehouse Foundation and two years later we are proudly delivering the Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme in some 50 schools across England this year and are tabled to deliver it to 250 schools over the next five years, reaching 250,000 young people. We remain forever grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for supporting this groundbreaking programme.

Additionally I still do a lot of work with central government where I represent the Amy Winehouse Foundation on expert advisory groups.

So as you can see I have an absolute unwavering belief that engaging with people with lived experience can be really useful to those who design and deliver services to people with complex needs.

When the opportunity arose to become a member of this year’s Connecting Policy with Practice cohort I had no hesitation in accepting it immediately. Thus far I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my partner, Matthew Nicholas at the Ministry of Justice who is keenly interested in engaging with people like myself to help him and his team design better policies.

We have decided to look at the issue of young homeless people to understand areas of disconnect between policy and practice. Admittedly we are both extremely busy people so finding the time to get together isn’t easy, but we recently visited some projects in Camden and met some service users who gave Matt and I some very clear ideas about the challenges they face and how Government may be able to do more to help service providers on the ground.

We hope we will be able to pull together a strong set of findings to present back to the group and to other policy makers.

With that I think for now I will sign off. Matt and I are presenting at the next roundtable event for ‘Connecting Policy with Practice’ on the 18th of November, so no doubt I shall be writing again then….

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