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Shaping Our Lives is a user-led organisation, with a small staff team and a National User Group. We also use a range of experts from diverse communities to support the delivery of projects, providing flexibility and efficiency. You can also find out more on the About us page.

We started as a user-led project in 1996 and in 2021 we registered as a Community Interest Company to emphasis the social impact of our work. Download our Constitution (Word document).

Ana-Maria Bilciu, a woman wearing a dark green top, smiling.

Ana-Maria Bilciu

Acting Head of Projects

Oversees our work streams and manages our active projects.

National User Group Members

Peter Beresford


Photo of Peter Beresford

I am Chair of Shaping Our Lives and a long term user of mental health services. I have been involved with Shaping Our Lives from the beginning, carrying out research and writing about supporting disabled people and service users to have more say and control over their lives and the services they need.

I am Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia and Emeritus Professor at Brunel University London and Essex University.

Peter’s latest book, written with Colin Slasberg, The Future of Social Care published by Edward Elgar can be obtained FREE as a download

Graham Price


Photo of Graham Price

I’m an energetic octogenarian totally blind person living independently alone. A cared for child from infancy, unhappily fostered with a view to adoption at the age of 10, registered blind in 1986, I cared for my late wife (2017) who was living with advanced Parkinsons and dementia.

As a service user/carer I have a wealth of experience of the barriers faced by people who need to access services and work tirelessly to achieve positive change. I’m a founding member of Sandwell Visually Impaired (SVI, inaugural chair 2004 to 2010), a member of the Adult Group of the English Committee of British Association of Social Workers (BASW), a contributor member of Birmingham University (social work students) and an Expert by Experience (EBE) member of Birmingham City University, engaging with health and social care students. Chair volunteer group operating Disco Inclusive, providing a night time social peer support activity for neuro diverse young people. Vice chair of Shaping Our Lives (since 2018).

Raj Mehta

Co- Chair

Photo of Raj Mehta

Since retiring from BP several years ago, where I held various senior leadership posts in the areas of procurement and IT, I have been pursuing my passion in disability, health and social care matters. Indeed, being blind myself, I bring a unique and diverse perspective to the many roles I currently hold within the health, social care and voluntary sectors, serving as an advisor, non-executive director and trustee on the board of several local and national charities.

Most of my life I have been blind and as such I have a personal understanding of lived experience and the impact of such a sensory loss. I believe in the importance of early, strong practical and emotional support necessary in helping every disabled individual realise their potential, living full and independent lives as valued members of society. I became a National User Group member several years ago.

Gina Barrett

Photo of Gina Barrett

I know a lot about people with learning difficulties; the way we think, the way we don’t like stuff, and if we’re not happy I’ll say something to change the people without learning difficulties’ views, and how they work with us. I’ve been going to People First Lambeth a very long time and I love working on Breaking out of the Bubble because the people with learning difficulties, us, we wasn’t mixing in and we wanted to be part of the society.

Now we are, I am doing that now and helping other people to do it as well. I’ve found some good ways to sort out problems. I’ve done research and I’ve made films. I’m very bothered about what happens to disabled people and how they are treated, all disabled people. You can’t leave out the others. You have to do all disabled people because we’re all in one.

(Vic Forrest – support to Jen and Gina).

Colin Cameron


Photo of Colin Cameron

I have been active in the Disabled People’s Movement since the early 1990s in organisations including the Northern Disability Arts Forum, Inclusion Scotland, Lothian CIL and Disability Arts Online. I completed my PhD on Disability Identity at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, in 2010.

I now lecture in sociology and philosophy on Guidance and Counselling and Health and Social Care degrees, and supervise postgraduate social work and PhD students in Disability Studies at Northumbria University. I edited ‘Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide’, published by Sage in 2014, and was co-editor of ‘The Routledge Handbook of Service User Involvement in Human Services Research and Education’, published in 2020.

Eleni Chambers

Photo of Eleni Chambers

I have been active in mental health and disability activism since the 1980’s. I am, amongst other things, a bilateral above knee amputee and wheelchair user. I am passionate about user led organisations and user led research.

I have worked for a range of organisations in service provision, research, education and commissioning. I am also a member of the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) School for Social Care Research User Carer Practitioner Reference Group and SCIE’s (Social Care Institute for Excellence) Co-production steering group and network. I am currently carrying out a PhD in patient and carer involvement in palliative care research.

Hameed Khan

A photo of Hameed Khan

Hameed Khan is a ex-service user of mental health services. He is currently a Carer for his mother.
He has worked in the Health and Social Care field for over 15 years in various roles managing Mental Health Advocacy Services to working in an Infra-Structure supporting Third Sector Organisations.
He has been involved in Research Projects as a Lived Experience Advisory Panel member. He is currently a Public and Patient Contributor and Advisor for a Research project funded by NIHR.

Joanna Matthews

Photo of Joanna Matthews, a white woman with glasses, facing the camera with a smile.

I am a disabled woman, born in the early 1960s. I have worked in the voluntary sector most of my working life (so over 30 years). I have worked for a national disability charity that was not user led and for smaller user led Disabled people’s organisations.

I have also worked in other social welfare charities, so I understand some of the challenges of so called minority or marginalised communities. I am a trustee of the Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) Unlimited Oxfordshire and sit on Oxfordshire County Council’s Co-production Board. In both these roles I aim to make a difference to the lives of disabled people in direct, simple ways.

I have carried out research with Shaping Our Lives on different issues experienced by service users and co-authored several reports for Shaping Our Lives (including a chapter in one of Colin Cameron’s academic textbooks). In another part of my life I am a theatre maker and practitioner. In July 2020 I completed an MA at Goldsmiths College London, Writing for Performance and Dramaturgy.

Jill Richards

A photo of Jill Richards, a black woman who sits looking into the camera with a smile.

Jill has been involved with Shaping Our Lives for many years and became a National User Group member in 2022. She is an undergraduate student in health and social care and has previously been involved in research on topics such as End-of-life care, data, and disability. She has worked with the NHS for decades.

Jill plays an active role in promoting equality and diversity and has any year’s experience of working with local authorities on issues including safeguarding, social work, and housing.

Fran Springfield


Image of Fran Springfield

I live in London and am a wheelchair user who also has hidden impairments. I’m Co-Chair of Chronic Illness Inclusion and also their training lead. I’ve recently joined the Disability Hate Crime Partnership. I’m currently a member of the Kings Fund Partnering for Inclusion Advisory Group. I’m a trainer for Mental Heath (Adult) First Aid England. I was Co-Chair of Disability Labour from 2018 – 2021.

My background is in nursing, specialising in acquired disability and end of life care. I managed nursing homes before my impairments prevented me from working full time.

I’m a member of the Society of Authors and part of the ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Group. Currently writing a historical novel which has several disabled characters.

Jennifer Taylor

I am a black woman with learning difficulties, and I work for People First Lambeth, in South London. I love going to meetings and speaking up for people with learning difficulties who can’t speak up for themselves. I like looking after people with learning difficulties as well. I am a member of the Partners’ Council at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Sometimes I enjoy socialising, and I like to chat to people about what’s going on in their lives, what they are going through.

Michael Turner


Photo of Michael Turner

I have a long history with Shaping Our Lives. I was the worker on its first project on user defined outcomes which started in 1996, and went on to work on several other projects. I helped Shaping Our Lives develop from being a project to being an organisation/network and was a member of the National User Group and Management Committee until 2008, returning to the committee in 2011.

I have also worked with a range of other user and disability organisations, along with universities, government departments, local authorities and charities, including 8 years working on co-production at the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

I now combine work with the Tribunal Service sitting on disability benefit appeal panels with projects with other organisations including Oxfordshire County Council and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. This has given me extensive experience of user involvement and management in a small organisation.