Change that leads to better lives

#PowerofPartnerships: Advonet Group

The need to strengthen the voice of the most marginalised groups has never been greater during this Covid- 19 period, particularly as health and care services adapt and change.

Advonet

Advocacy services have unique insights from their work with the most disadvantaged but we are working in a situation where resources are increasingly stretched. Independence is one of the key values in advocacy but we know that we need to work together with others to get the right results for the people we work with and to influence change.

Our local grass roots services are the experts in engaging their own communities in adapting an advocacy approach to further empower people they support to know their rights and have a stronger voice in this period of change. Through working in partnership with our local communities we can not only build their skills and knowledge in applying advocacy approaches but also learn from them in how we improve our own advocacy services.

The Advonet Group invested in building partnerships with our local communities and services as we know we are stronger together. We developed our Leeds Advocacy Network as an opportunity to share skills, pass on information on rights and raise themes and issues together. Our suite of free advocacy training has enabled wider services to build skills and knowledge but also helped us to learn from them. Our connections with our local communities have given us the opportunity to adapt and improve our self- advocacy resources and workshops for different groups needs. Our specialist services have enabled direct consultation for groups such as autism or learning disabilities with health and care services on barriers and solutions. Our community services have linked with groups such as Gypsy and travellers, deaf and visually impaired, post prison support and BAME linked groups to share learning and skills and help services embed advocacy skills that can be adapted for their own groups needs. This has been so much a win- win situation as we have learned so much ourselves from these communities in how we can improve our own service.

The Power of Partnerships for advocacy services has never been as vital as during this Covid- 19 period to ensure a voice for the most marginalised and helping people know their rights as changes to health and care are being implemented.

Being part of a local Communities of Interest Network, working together with 21 groups representing those with the greatest inequalities, has enabled us to ensure information is shared in the right way and enabled us to work together on issues and themes during this Covid period. We have been able to give feedback on barriers and solutions that have come from people themselves both from our specialist services and statutory and community advocacy work that have alternative routes into health and care and can be followed up.

Advocates have used their unique independent insight to work creatively to support care homes and wards to enable rights to be upheld and peoples needs and wishes to be passed on during this time, helping them raise and address communication/ digital needs, helping care home staff to understand rights during Covid more clearly and providing more accessible summaries of themes and issues via new routes to health and care.

We worked with Healthwatch, health and care engagement leads and third sector leads on ensuring peoples preferences and barriers to digital inclusion were identified in the planned move to an rapidly increased focus on remote support.

Our autism service has enabled developed a Covid- 19 resources and toolkits for autistic people and professionals and our learning disability services have developed new additional support working with wider services, a digital hub and ensuring consultation routes in next stage local plans.

We are further co- producing additional self- advocacy resources for prioritised marginalised groups together with our local communities as building skills and confidence to put forward your needs is more important than ever for those that may experience barriers.

Covid led to regional opportunities helping us to be stronger together. We worked with regional advocacy organisations and other services as part of the Keeping Neurodivergent People Connected project, linking to those most isolated at this time and sharing ideas and resources. We also began a regional advocacy forum to share issues, themes, solutions, best practice and explore and address ways to jointly influence change during the Covid period in our local areas.

We have seen the increased strength of advocacy services working together with others to champion the rights and enable the voice of disadvantaged groups and we know this needs to grow and develop in this next challenging period.

Wendy Cork, Advocacy Development and Partnership Director

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