Change that leads to better lives

Walking alongside somebody - citizen advocacy and partnership with carers

We hear from one of the citizen advocates from Stockport Advocacy. This advocate is a tribute to their citizen advocacy roots and the ethos of walking alongside somebody. It touches on the huge benefit that comes with good partnerships between advocates and carers.

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Six years ago, on retiring, and enjoying good health, sufficient pension and wanting to “put something back,” I came across Stockport Advocacy Trust. I met with the Stockport Advocacy team, and finding we liked each other, I was then matched with Anne, a quiet woman who likes swimming, drawing, charity shops and getting out of the house. As Anne is on the autistic spectrum, introductions would take time. And they did. I knew I had much to learn.

Several weeks later, after being present in Anne’s company in her shared house, our first expedition together was on an errand to fetch some milk from the local shop. The mission was successful, I was accepted. Anne was comfortable in my company.

Regularly seeing Anne, observing, listening, checking with her support workers, I suggested activities, trips out and we ventured further. Anne loves travelling on trains, trams, walking and going out in the car. Her favourite place to visit is Manchester Airport, especially the pub with the beer garden adjacent to the runway. We go out with the social group organised by the local branch of the National Autistic Society.

Meanwhile, Stockport Advocacy directed me to relevant training and support groups as well as providing guidance. All these were much needed last year when Anne became ill. Also, the house where she had been happy for many year was no longer able to meet her needs. The Advocacy were on the other end of the phone, and I was able to pop in for that welcome cup of tea, reassuring words and sensible advice. They helped me advocate for Anne, play my part in helping her back to health and finding a new place to call home.

Anne is once again happy and well, making her new flat homely. And we have returned to our regular pattern of journeys, lunches, shopping, days out.

What’s in it for me? I like to feel I am making a difference. Seeing Anne helps me keep a perspective on what are the important things in life. Anne is “under my skin” and a part of my life.

Then came Covid 19. For Anne, this has been extraordinarily difficult. Changes, ongoing uncertainties with no end date in sight to mark on a calendar have all brought challenges for her support staff. Thank goodness Anne has a dedicated, hard-working small team of principal carers.

Because of our practice of regular outings, gradually widening our areas of exploration, always with two carers in attendance, I have developed good relationships with each. They are based on respect for each other’s views, what is practical and within guidelines, and always with Anne’s best interests in mind.

I had to find new ways of keeping in touch with Anne, and with her carers. Anne doesn’t talk much, but she does like us to wave to each other on FaceTime. I make and send lots of home-made cards, drawings and models I think Anne will enjoy. As Anne likes the airport, feet and toes, Blackpool Tower, cafes, shops, emergency vehicles, trains and trams, there is scope for creativity. I miss her, but she knows I am thinking of her.

Any temporary easing of restrictions enables me to visit, to have a cup of tea together, or take our packed lunches to the park nearby.

As an advocate, regular contact, at least weekly, with Anne’s core carers, has been crucial. We text and phone to discuss her routines and activities, ongoing issues, considering options, finding solutions. They are the key to Anne enjoying life, to living, not existing.

Changed name - Citizen Advocate for “Anne”.

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Bath (Registered Office)

National Development Team for Inclusion
First Floor
30-32 Westgate Buildings
Bath
BA1 1EF

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