Why Advocacy Matters to Me - Julie Bolton
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
I’m not going to lie. When I saw the job advert for a Carers Advocate for Lancashire, I hadn’t a clue what advocacy was, let alone if I would be any good at it. So, I thought I would try, and I applied. To my surprise, I got an interview invite. After a little research and a lot of reflection on previous job roles, to see where I had advocated for someone or myself, I landed the role.
Within my role as a Carers Advocate, I support unpaid carers within Lancashire to be heard and listened to. To understand their rights and to be empowered to self-advocate.
It turns out that within the roles I had done before as a support worker and a team leader in a residential setting, working with adults with complex needs and multiple diagnoses’ I had a lot of transferable skills. I had actually been advocating for over 9 years and didn’t even know it.
Being able to share knowledge of someone’s rights under the law and legislation is not only empowering for the individual themselves but for me too. It provides a sense of reward and pride that I didn’t know you could get from a job. But that’s the thing about being an advocate in any form, it isn’t just a job, it’s the way you are, it's part of you. The skills and confidence I have learnt by advocating on behalf of and with others have taught me to advocate for myself too.
I was given prompts to write this blog and one of them was to share three reasons why advocacy matters most to you. Well, I can’t do that, because there aren’t just three reasons, there’s a lifetime of them.
I was once described by a client as the female Batman, who doesn’t let injustices go.
The fact of it is my role is simple, I fact find, I research, I share knowledge and information and then remind the people I work with that they are the experts in their caring role and they should not only be heard but feel listened to, too.
That’s the key to being a ‘good’ advocate, knowing when to stop talking and just listen.
I work a lot in the background with individuals and support them to attend meetings or appointments and we have sort of an unwritten code, a look or a moment shared that means, now talk. It is not the role of an advocate to do it for them but to support and empower the person on their own self-advocacy journey.
My role as a Carers Advocate is different to others. I am instructed and work on an issue basis, so for me, one key point that I would like people to understand is that I don’t make decisions, my opinion doesn’t matter, yours as the unpaid carer does.
There is a general lack of understanding of the advocacy roles. The challenge faced by unpaid Carers within the sector is one of the reasons I am passionate about my role and the need for it.
I was asked to give one tip to someone learning to self-advocate, and that’s to keep going. Keep researching, keep speaking, keep attending the meetings and the appointments, and keep going. An advocate will have your back!
In 10 years' time, I would like the advocacy sector to...
I want to say be non-existent because it isn’t needed, but one, I would be out of a job, and two, advocacy will always be needed for as long as people are not being or feeling listened to.