Why Advocacy Matters to me - Sam Burn
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 started at Cloverleaf in January 2023. I had never really had much experience with advocacy before; however, I had worked a lot with individuals with learning disabilities, which I absolutely loved. The role I am currently working in is a self-advocacy group leader position, which involves supporting adults with learning disabilities to speak up for their rights and working with professionals around the UK on advocacy projects. The work is really rewarding and the self-advocates I work with are fantastic.
Can you share three reasons why advocacy matters most to you?
The self-advocacy group all agree that advocacy means that everyone can get their voice heard, having a learning disability doesn't hold you back from achieving your goals, and having someone to listen, help, and support you stops you from feeling alone.
What do you think are the most important attributes required to become a good advocate?
Definitely a good listener and taking an interest in the situation. Also, actively trying to help the individual rather than just lending an ear. Establishing good connections in the community is beneficial, as strong partnership working is essential in order to get the best help for an individual. Additionally, being an empathetic and kind person is a bonus!
What one thing would you most like people to know about advocacy?
There may be a lot of jargon and procedures that might confuse you at first, but if you are interested in advocacy, you will easily pick it up (and take that from someone who only started in January!). If you enjoy the role and are passionate about making a change in people's lives, then that is the most important thing.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that the sector is currently facing?
We are fortunate at self-advocacy in that we have a lot of admiration and support from inside and outside of the group. Possibly our biggest challenge is getting the word out that there is a self-advocacy group available for adults with learning disabilities, as there are plenty of individuals who don't know about the group and might want to join. We are gradually raising membership so hopefully this is the turning point in our network!
If you could share one tip on how people can learn to self-advocate what would it be?
Believe in yourself. Know your views are valid and that people want to listen to you. Your suggestions are great and will be a valued asset to the community.
Complete the sentence – in 10 years’ time I would like the advocacy sector to... have wider exposure and be at the forefront of adult health services.