On Wednesday 26th May in Portcullis House, Westminster and hosted by Keith Vaz MP and Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, User Voice held its official launch event!
In the last year User Voice has concentrated on piloting a number of innovative projects and so the aim of the event was to explain the work we have done in prisons, probations and youth justice. We also wanted to let everyone know of our future plans and how their support and involvement is needed.
There were a number of speakers on the night who all gave invaluable insight into the work of User Voice through various perspectives. Keith Vaz MP opened the event with an introduction to User Voice’s significance from a policy angle whilst Lord Patel spoke about the benefits and importance of user-led organisations such as User Voice from an academic standpoint. There was also an engaging and imperative speech by Michael Spurr, Director General of NOMS who supported the work of User Voice and spoke of the value of including offenders and ex-offenders in NOMS. Mark Johnson (founder) and Daniel Hutt (Head of Policy) then spoke in more detail about User Voice’s history and current projects.
Most importantly, four ex-offenders and User Voice volunteers each spoke about having a voice and what would have happened if they didn’t. They spoke about the value of someone listening to them but more importantly, that person being someone who has been in their shoes. A big thank you must be given to Tom Butler, Warren Goldie, Corey Campbell and Marina Mason for speaking and representing User Voice.
We had a fantastic turnout and a wide range of people attended including amongst others, senior representatives from prisons, probation, youth justice, policy makers, frontline delivery, media, Lords and MPs, funders, commissioners and academics. This was particularly interesting as it is rare, if ever, that an audience of such a wide spectrum and who have the collective power to solve the problems around re-offending should come together. It was the offenders that brought them together.
At the event we also gave out a draft report evaluating the work of User Voice’s Prison Council model. In true User Voice style the report was deliberately in draft form in order to gain consultation and feedback from the attendees. The final report has now been published and can be accessed here.