Why Advocacy Matters to Me - Kristina Golijanin
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...
I joined Cloverleaf in early 2020 as a Service Manager. I was previously aware of self-advocacy through a role managing a project in the homeless sector and how supporting an individual to self-advocate was the best solution for the person, if attainable. This was something I naturally promoted and encouraged with the people accessing the project - prior to knowing about Independent Advocacy, both on Statutory and Non-Statutory levels. I completed a City of Guilds Qualification in relation to Independent Advocacy, and this led to the start of my curiosity about Advocacy and my application for the role at Cloverleaf.
Once I started looking into advocacy, it opened my eyes to how broad the sector actually is and the multiple roles that advocates deliver to people who require support. From supporting people with substantial difficulties to people who lack capacity about a specific issue, I knew this was a service I wanted to be involved with.
I delivered a contracted service for two years within Cloverleaf, where the advocates in my team offered both Statutory and Non-Statutory Advocacy (RPR, IMCA, IMHA, Care Act Advocacy, Litigation Friend, Rule 1.2 Representative) to people who required support.
Can you share three reasons why advocacy matters most to you?
1. Advocacy is key to supporting many people to have their voices heard on issues and decisions that are directly impacting and involve them and their lives. I love that advocacy is delivered independently of other services, as it means that the support is for the individual that needs it and is focused solely on a person-centred approach.
2. Human Rights are upheld with advocacy intervention. Some people are unable to voice concerns and issues, and/or don't know their rights. With advocacy intervention, I have seen first-hand how individuals accessing our services have their Human Rights upheld on a daily basis.
3. Advocacy acts as an extra safeguard for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Seeing an advocate support someone who may have no one else and appropriately challenge others on behalf of that person when required, shows me how important this role is.
What do you think are the most important attributes required to become a good advocate?
People are so diverse and communicate in multiple different ways. This doesn’t just cover language, but non-verbal communication too. Advocates take time to explore different communication methods that work for the people they support, to gain their views and wishes.
There are so many different types of Advocacy support required and often advocates have to wear “different hats”. Advocates have to be mindful of this when supporting a person, but it also helps identify if other types of Advocacy support are required.
As advocates do such an incredible job, some professionals try to get them to complete work which is not within their role. Again, by staying within boundaries, Advocates continue to deliver support independent of any other service, and solely support the individual requiring Advocacy.
Willingness to learn:
Advocacy is broad and legislation is ever-changing. To me, this is exciting and means that every person we support is different, providing a diverse role for anyone involved. An advocate has to be willing to learn how to best support the people that require advocacy.
What one thing would you most like people to know about advocacy?
The difference that it genuinely makes to a person accessing advocacy support.
An advocate is able to have a different relationship with a person accessing services and needing support when compared to a clinician or social worker.
An advocate can support a person to have their voice heard when they feel unable to put across their views and wishes.
An advocate is able to challenge alongside - and on behalf of a person -when needed.
An Advocate can support someone to be involved as fully as they can be, with decisions that are being made about their lives. These should always be made with the person if possible.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that the sector is currently facing?
I have observed how hard the Advocacy sector has worked throughout the pandemic - ensuring people still have access to the independent support they are entitled to.
Coming out of the pandemic, advocacy support is more vital than ever, and the need for support appears to be increasing in our communities.
Many people's situations have changed. Some are now more complex, more people need support from services, and the strains on services have an impact on everyone accessing them and those involved in delivering them.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that we’ve seen the full impact of the pandemic yet. I believe that this will be an ever-growing challenge as we continue to navigate where we are now - and how we move forward - to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society so that they don’t slip through the net of support.
This is why Advocacy is more vital than ever, as a safeguard for people who otherwise may not have independent support.
If you could share one tip on how people can learn to self-advocate what would it be?
Work on your confidence to speak up about what is important to you and what you value, regardless of what others may believe or say. We are all different and beautifully diverse, and you know your situation better than anyone else. People often make assumptions about others, and this is not helpful. If you are confident to speak up, you can have your voice heard and your views, wishes and feelings considered.
Complete the sentence – in 10 years' time I would like the advocacy sector to...
Be valued and acknowledged for the independent support it continues to offer and deliver to so many people in our society.
We work in a fast-paced environment that’s ever-changing, and play a key role when supporting people who require advocacy intervention.
Advocates are creative, resilient, empathic and adaptable, with a non-judgmental approach that focuses on each person who accesses our service as an individual in their own right.