In this open and honest blog specially written for Advocacy Awareness Week Emerald discusses her personal experience of being supported by an advocate and discusses what advocacy means to her and what she feels needs to change in the sector moving forwards.
My name is Emerald and I am 24 years old. I am a mum to twin girls who are now 3 and a half. Currently I am a stay at home mum, but I am thinking about going back to college as I would like to get a job in the care sector. People would say I am determined, resourceful, stubborn, resilient, caring, and kind. They also say I am a brilliant baker and a great mum!
Some people find my behaviours challenging. I can be quite loud and full on and this can overwhelming. I have some difficulties with learning and need things clearly explained to me or shown – pictures work well, I also have some mental health challenges too and this has meant I have been sectioned on several occasions. If I am in a situation that I find difficult I can respond in a direct way which can be seen as me being rude and aggressive. This is only because I am feeling scared, vulnerable and not in control.
I think that advocacy is a voice for people who cannot speak for themselves and making sure right things happen for the individual. We need advocacy to allow people that don’t have a voice to be heard. It is particularly important when people have more than one label. Advocacy is important when you are in a situation with professionals who are saying things you don’t understand. Your advocate can make sure the professionals speak to you in a way that is accessible and appropriate so that you can be a central part of the decision that is being made.
In the past advocacy has helped me. When I was in hospital people only saw my mental health problems and my autism was not acknowledged and understood. My autism was getting in the way of me getting better, the advocate helped the professionals to understand this. When I was in a meeting in the hospital the professionals were talking about my plan for when I left, and I didn’t understand what they were saying. The plans seemed complicated to me and I didn’t understand how they would work and who would do what. My advocate made sure I understood what was being said and that I knew what would happen once I left the hospital. I can find it really overwhelming when there are lots of professionals in the room all trying to say their bit and then they ask for my view. This means I find it difficult to find my voice and get my point of view across, and an advocate can support me with this.
I haven’t always had a positive advocacy experience. I have had advocates in the past who I haven’t got on well with. They have seemed rude and, in a rush, and not really listed to my point of view. When it hasn’t worked, I have felt angry and disappointed and not listened to. When Advocacy seems to be linked to a services or resources it doesn’t always work, for example my advocate at the hospital who I got on well with wasn’t able to continue to support me when I left. This left me feeling abandoned.
There are some things that can be done to improve advocacy. Advocates need to be trained so that they can deal with a range of difficulties, challenges and situations and understand person centered approached and planning. They need to make sure they know the person well and have a good relationship and connection with them and be available to everyone who needs one. Advocates need to anticipate difficulties/crisis situations arising and support them before a crisis happens. Advocates need to know that everyone is different and has different needs and have the person at the center of everything they do and say. Advocates need to use a range of methods to make sure people know about them not everyone is able to use things on the internet. Information, cards, leaflets that are Easy Read would help if they were available where people go, for example the GP, Library, Leisure Centers, Shopping Centers, Hospitals and Schools – everywhere! It would be good if Advocacy was advertised on the TV and the radio in a way that everyone understood and at times when people watch TV and listen to the radio, for example during prime time viewing and listening. Advocacy should be available for people who find themselves in vulnerable and challenging situations too.
Written by Emerald and supported by Julie, Children and Young People Programme lead, NDTi.
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