Change that leads to better lives

Where advocacy happens

Your Voice Counts shares some daily snapshots from their advocates' caseloads to illustrate the wide range of things advocates do.

Your Voice Counts AAW23
Your Voice Counts logo, AAW23 logo and the words Where advocacy happens

Advocacy matters and happens everywhere, not just behind a desk or phone. To mark Advocacy Awareness Week 2023, we’re sharing snapshots from our advocates’ caseloads to illustrate the variety of issues our advocates are involved in, the practicalities of how we deliver our service and, most importantly, the impact we have on the people we support to help answer the question "What is advocacy?"

Your Voice Counts provides independent statutory and community advocacy services across the North East, helping people to understand their circumstances and have their rights and wishes heard and upheld.

Monday: Hadrian Clinic, Newcastle West End

Today, I’m visiting Hadrian Clinic to meet with Shirley. I'm working with Shirley as her Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) and we’re meeting this morning to talk about Shirley's plans to leave hospital and return home.

Shirley has spent four months in hospital under the Mental Health Act and is keen to get back home. It’s an important meeting and joining us will be her responsible clinician, social worker and a nurse from the ward as well as Shirley's husband and sister.

I met with Shirley last week during my visit to the ward and we spent time preparing for this meeting, discussing her thoughts and desires. We took notes together, and Shirley has those notes with her. We've planned if Shirley feels nervous during the meeting I'll act to ensure her wishes are represented and heard.

Tuesday: Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle City Centre

I'm on a visit this morning to the Royal Victoria Infirmary hospital to meet with Irene and her consultant. Irene was admitted for tests that suggest cancer and a decision regarding surgery needs to be made. However, Irene has been assessed as unable to make this decision for herself and doesn’t have any family or close friends available to assist in making the decision so this is where I step in. I’m here as an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) to make sure that the principles of the Mental Capacity Act are followed and that Irene's wishes, feelings and beliefs are taken into account when making a decision about her treatment.

Wednesday: Residential care home, Gateshead

Today, I'm visiting a residential care setting for older people to catch up with Stan and see how he’s doing. Stan used to live with his wife but moved to the care home after having a serious fall that required a hospital admission.

The decision for Stan to move here wasn't made by Stan himself. Stan's wife and social worker worked together to figure out that this move was in Stan's best interest. Stan is now under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) which means that he can't leave the care home and the staff keep a close eye on how he's doing.

Because of DoLS, Stan has the right to a Relevant Person's Representative (RPR). Originally, Stan's wife thought of taking on this role but due to her own health concerns she decided it would be better for an advocate like me to support Stan. Ever since then, I've been visiting Stan regularly.

Stan might not always remember me, but he enjoys talking about his life during our conversations. These chats help me to understand how he's feeling and coping. During my visits, I also talk to the staff and review Stan's care plans. I check for things like are Stan’s needs being met, his care plans followed and if he's engaged in activities he enjoys.

I also stay connected with Stan's wife periodically. She visits him every week and offers valuable insights. She's a strong ally for Stan and an important part of his life.

Thursday morning: Your Voice Counts office, Gateshead town centre

This morning, I’m meeting up with someone I'm assisting with a complaint they want to make about an NHS service they’ve received.

Everyone has the right to the support of an advocate when making an NHS complaint and I’ve been working with this person to help them navigate the process.

Today, we’re getting together at our office in Gateshead to go through the response they received to their complaint and get ready for a local resolution meeting.

The person I'm assisting is deaf, so I made sure to have a sign language translator join us to help with BSL signing.

Thursday afternoon: Home visit, South Shields

I'm headed to South Shields to visit Sam at her home. Sam has a learning disability and is the mother of a young child. She recently left her abusive partner and has been signposted to us by her social worker. Our goal is to support Sam to take part in child protection and safeguarding proceedings and to help her to engage with other services that can help improve her family’s situation.

Today we’re catching up to see how she is getting on and prepare for some important meetings that are coming up in relation to her daughter’s long term living arrangements.

Friday: Residential care home, Newcastle

Simon was referred to us by the local authority when a decision was being made about where he should live and if a secure setting was the right option for him. Simon has complex needs with a history of offending, and drug and alcohol misuse, as well as having a learning disability. It’s important he has the support of an advocate to help him understand the process and make sure his human rights are upheld.

I was initially appointed as Simon’s Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) but he’s also entitled to a Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR) so I’ve taken on that role too to provide consistency for Simon. This also means I can use the relationship I’ve built up with Simon to gain a better understanding of his wishes.

We’ve been discussing appealing the decision that Simon should stay in a secure setting and therefore have his liberty restricted, so today I’m talking him through what the court process would involve and how I could help him access legal representation from a solicitor.

*Examples are illustrative with names and some details changed to protect anonymity.

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