Why Advocacy Matters to Me - Jane Dalby
With an ever-growing number of people accessing advocacy services, we’re asking members of the Cloverleaf team to share their views, thoughts and experiences on advocacy and why #advocacymatters
How did you become involved in advocacy? Please tell us a little about your role at Cloverleaf...
After leaving teaching, I wanted to move into an area where I was still working to make a difference in people’s lives using cross-over skills.
Looking through job adverts a Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR) role was advertised, which looked interesting, so I read up about both the job and the company. The role involved working with individuals who were in care settings but lacked the capacity to consent to those arrangements and who needed support to ensure their voices were heard and their rights protected and promoted.
After spending so many years working with young people, it was an interesting prospect to work with older individuals, and it became clear from reading that there was a great need for independent support. The ethos of Cloverleaf was something which really resonated with me and I felt that advocacy was something to which I would be suited due to my beliefs and skill set.
After some time in the RPR role, I also began to work as an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA), supporting individuals to be involved in decisions about Serious Medical Treatment and Changes of Accommodation.
Can you share three reasons why advocacy matters most to you?
Ensuring that vulnerable individuals are valued and represented is vital in a society which would like to consider itself civilised. Advocacy ensures that the individual is supported to be involved in their care, that they are listened to, and their views are represented. It ensures that processes are followed correctly and that the individual is placed at the centre of care and decision-making. Individuals are less likely to be overlooked or ‘done unto’ where an advocate is involved.
Advocacy can make a real difference to the quality of an individual’s life in so many positive ways. Even where a difference/change might appear minor to others, the impact on the individual can be of great importance both in terms of an actual change made and also their sense of self-esteem or self-worth. Knowing that changes are possible and making those changes can be very empowering and encourage further autonomy and improvements to an individual’s life.
Advocacy enables individuals to build a relationship with someone independent whom they can trust and who will be ‘on their side’. It ensures that the necessary amount of time can be taken to get to know the individual and to explore the support they require; the individual does not need to feel pressured/overwhelmed/interrogated into providing information. Advocacy allows flexibility in approach to place a person at ease to open up more effective conversations and support. Advocacy tailors itself to the needs of the individual and their desired outcomes to provide support of the ultimate benefit to the individual.
What do you think are the most important attributes required to become a good advocate?
Listening without judging, effective communication skills (letting the person lead where possible) and ensuring the individual knows they are the sole focus of the time you’re with them. There are many other skills and attributes (such as the ability to liaise, being organised, time management etc.) which come in useful. However, being able to develop a good relationship with a person has been, for me, key in providing effective support. A sense of humour can also come in very handy.
What one thing would you most like people to know about advocacy?
It’s a vital service in a society where individuals can become ‘lost’ and their voices go unheard. Having support to have their views and feelings considered provides a wide variety of benefits to varying individuals in a variety of circumstances. Advocacy ‘walks the walk’ in terms of valuing the individual and supporting them as necessary to be at the centre of their own care.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that the sector is currently facing?
Funding is an issue as Local Authorities may be looking for less expensive models of advocacy to the detriment of standards (with the knock-on effects on the people requiring advocacy services). Funding also plays into realistic provision by care settings and social services – this can make it very difficult to fully meet the needs or wishes of an individual (which is where liaison comes in).
A lack of awareness by others as to the role of advocacy can also be a barrier to individuals receiving support, despite efforts to explain and broaden understanding.
If you could share 1 tip on how people can learn to self-advocate what would it be?
Work with your advocate – everyone’s journey towards self-advocacy is different and the advocate is there for YOU.
Complete the sentence – in 10 years’ time, I would like the advocacy sector to...
Be in a position where it’s more widely understood and recognised as being important in empowering and supporting individuals.
Be in a position where funding was more readily available to the sector to ensure the range and depth of service could grow.