Change that leads to better lives

Keeping people safe – the power of partnerships

The Advocacy Project has long believed that, as a society, we do not place enough attention on keeping people safe from abuse and neglect. We do not place enough attention on keeping people safe by preventing situations from occurring rather than simply responding robustly after the event.

Judith quote

Across the sector, we talk a lot about policies, reporting processes and the role of organisational culture. Transparency and accountability helps too – particularly in relation to lessons learned. But none of this really helps if people whose circumstances make them vulnerable do not know what being safe means in the context of their every day lives.

A survey called locking the door before the horse bolts that we undertook across 10 London boroughs last year revealed some quite shocking results. People with pets felt safer than those without, even if the pet was a cat or a budgie. There are also marked differences in the responses based on gender and sexual orientation, particularly in inpatient settings. Those identifying as female typically feel more vulnerable. We know from this, and from our other work, that people identifying as LGBTQ in mental health units are reluctant to disclose important information about their lives and their mental health to staff because they are afraid of discrimination and abuse – and scared of being locked away for longer than necessary because of this.

All these issues have been made much worse since the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we might all have experienced the same storm during the pandemic, we certainly haven’t all been in the same boat. Those who are the most vulnerable, those who were locked in poverty and injustice before lockdown have often been hit the hardest. And of course the reduction in face-to-face contact, reduction in some care services, and people being shut away within their own four walls has had a massive impact.

We experienced a 50% increase in calls to our referral line between 1 March and mid-April 2020. Callers were distressed, frightened and concerned about their safety. And it’s not just us. Many agencies have been highlighting concerns about safety. For example:

  • domestic abuse charities have experienced a massive spike in demand
  • there has been much media coverage about an increase in scams
  • the Internet Watch Foundation has reported a 50% increase in potential online harm to children due to an increase in inappropriate sexual images, racism and so forth
  • BUT we are not yet seeing these concerns come through as formal safeguarding concerns.

Sadly, this is all in line with national data, including the recently released national advocacy survey. We need to do better. Together.

So moving into the second wave, we’re going to place an EVEN greater focus on keeping people safe through partnership working. Building on our existing work, we have launched a new programme of work called “keeping people safe”. We have doubled the resources in our single point of contact, so that we can undertake proactive wellbeing checks for the most vulnerable. Other aspects of the programme include building the capacity of people to understand what keeping safe means in the context of their everyday lives, and building the capacity of the voluntary and community sector in relation to the preventative agenda. This includes initiatives like peer safeguarding champions and community-based safeguarding reference groups.

Across the advocacy sector, we need to work in a broader partnership that includes the people we work with, health and social care professionals, and our fellow advocates. Let’s unleash the real #PowerofPartnership.

Judith Davey, Chief Executive of The Advocacy Project

Proud mum, feminist, and curious person who loves to know about the world (hence the certificates in “odd” subjects like canine psychology and genetics). Passionate about equality and social justice, and has volunteered in charity since age of 14. Loves to dance Argentinian Tango

Judith is the CEO of The Advocacy Project, an organisation that helps vulnerable people secure their rights and make meaningful choices about what happens in their lives. It’s a user led organisation that puts the voice of people with lived experience at the heart of everything they do. The Advocacy Project works for organisations including Great Ormond Street Hospital, NHS England, Broadmoor Hospital and many London boroughs.

Judith has worked in senior roles in the private, public and voluntary sectors including Vice President Customer Services at Nortel, European Director at Deloitte, and Deputy CEO at ActionAid. She has a social sciences degree and a MSc in Information Technology. She studied governance and leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School

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