Updates from our Lived Experience Panel

A snapshot of some of the work the Lived Experience panel have been involved with


Lily Yohannes

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Our mission at Breaking Barriers is to put our clients at the heart of what we do. We do this by asking ourselves how best we can implement the Lived Experience Panel in our work and be a truly refugee led organisation.

Through involvement on decision making processes, integrating with different teams at Breaking Barriers and working with our partners, there are a multitude of ways for the panel to get involved with our work and maximise their experience.

A snapshot of some highlights:


Our Lived Experience Panel have supported us with 5 recruitment processes at different levels, including:

  • Our new CEO
  • Director of our People team
  • Two Employment and Integration advisers in London and Manchester

In addition to this, they have taken full charge with recruiting new panel members, being involved at every stage: writing job descriptions, shortlisting, interviewing, and onboarding.

As a Lived experience panel member, I took part in Breaking Barriers’ new CEO candidate interviewing process. My highlight was after interviewing them, the panel had an open discussion with the chair of the Board and Former CEO sharing individual feedback on candidates. It made me feel heard and valued as an effective part of the organisation.

Marsha, Lived Experience Panel member

Involvement with partners

In November 2023, with the launch of our Business Behind Refugees movement, we hosted a showcase event at LinkedIn’s office, where two members of the panel, Yusuf and Nawal, spoke to our business community about their experiences of finding employment in the UK, sparking up many smaller conversations on how businesses can help.

Similarly, in February 2024, the Lived Experience Panel held their second roundtable event with over 30 trusts and foundations partners present. During this discussion the panel shared updates on the work they’ve achieved and ideas for best practices for the future. This included conversations around ‘meaningful involvement’ with the aim of encouraging the panel’s involvement at all levels – from frontline services to strategic direction as well as identifying how our Lived Experience Panel can get more involved with our partners in the future.

Being involved throughout the Trust and Foundation round-table event helped me to reach out to the wider UK charity sector with my experience both positive and negative. The takeout was to be more proactive in practicing good governance while promoting lived experience teams across the sector.

Marsha, Lived Experience Panel member

Integration with teams

In March 2024, with the beginning of Ramadan, our Communications team worked with one of our panel members, Nawal, on a campaign to raise awareness of refugee employment and break down any cultural misunderstanding that might pose as barrier to refugees in the workplace.

Nawal supported with putting together valuable advice on how employers can support Muslim employees during this period of fasting and took over our Instagram account to answer any questions from those in the community interested in finding out more.

Review of policies and documents

The Lived Experience panel have reviewed over 10 policies and documents with the goal of making sure they are accessible and efficient for our clients.

For example, after reviewing our client enrolment form, the panel advised that it was too long and jargon heavy. We changed the language for it to be accessible to those with a limited level of English and took on board the panel’s suggestion of splitting up the information and having three more accessible documents.

In addition to this, the panel have supported us with writing and submitting funding applications to ensure the language we are using and the way we talk about our clients is accurate. This has provided opportunities for two panel members who are interested in fundraising to learn from the process of reviewing, writing, answering questions and submitting funding applications.

Current work:

Mentoring sessions

Launched in January 2024, The Lived Experience Mentoring Scheme is a pilot scheme connecting Breaking Barriers’ senior leaders with mentors who identify as having lived experience of being a refugee and/or the asylum-seeking process. Mentors include Breaking Barriers staff with lived experience as well as members of the Lived Experience Panel.

The aim of the scheme is to promote diversity and inclusion at Breaking Barriers through shared experiences and perspectives. This approach challenges traditional hierarchies, provides insight to lived experience at leadership level and therefore fosters a more inclusive workplace culture.

The Panel helped to develop the Lived Experience Mentoring Pack which sets out the expectations and structure of the scheme and their input has been hugely appreciated! The first mentor/mentee pairs have been connected and we look forward to reporting on the successes and progress of the scheme over the next few months!

I have been working as a consultant for the Breaking Barriers Lived Experience Panel for a few months now. From my experience, I've seen that there are various ways to make a positive impact on the lives of refugees. By working on areas such as integration into the workforce, language learning, access to education opportunities, and support in the process of community adaptation, we can increase refugees' access to the resources they need for a better future. My future goal is to develop more effective and comprehensive programs to support refugees' full integration into society and help them develop their skills. This could involve increasing opportunities in the job market, providing education and vocational development opportunities, and encouraging refugees to take leadership roles in their communities. In the long run, I want to strive to help refugees fully utilize their potential and contribute more strongly to society.

Yasemin Ipek, Lived Experience Panel member

What have we learned?

Since establishing the Lived experience panel in July 2023, we have learned…

  • Providing tailored training and introductions is crucial for meaningful involvement.
  • The Lived experience panel are change-makers, not just storytellers.
  • Development is a two-way journey, and for people with lived experience to be able to progress, we should play an important part in creating a welcoming and supportive environment, as well as providing training.

Find out more about our Breaking Barriers community