As a first blog post, advocacy seems like an appropriate choice as it’s something I’ve strongly believed in for many years. Here’s why:
Through no fault of its own, advocacy is one of those words which can’t help but sound a bit jargony. “Advocacy? Ah, so that’s like… What, exactly?”
Advocacy means supporting someone to speak up for what matters to them. In essence, it’s making sure we never forget that in a civilised society, everybody matters.
When I feel cheated or downtrodden by life’s many ups and downs, I write a letter to the people accountable. If my bins aren’t collected, I complain to the council, if I’m sold something faulty and denied a refund, I write to head office, if I feel uninformed and pressured into taking a new form of medication, I demand further consultation on my treatment options.
I am able to do this, my upbringing and fortunate social status have placed me in a position where if I am inconvenienced, taken advantage of or at risk, it is within my control to both expect and demand change.
Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Many of our most vulnerable people in society struggle to access the essential tools and information to change an adverse set of circumstances for themselves.
That’s where advocacy comes in. Advocates work with people to ensure they have a voice in matters affecting them. Advocates will support people who struggle with reading, writing, asserting themselves, using telephones or computers, accessing a building, formulating an argument, knowing their rights. All things which many of us take for granted.
Too often it is assumed that exercising legal rights to be treated equally and to challenge difficult situations are within everybody’s control. But what if you have a learning disability which makes oral and written communication more difficult, mental health problems which cause debilitating anxiety attacks in certain situations, dementia which limits your understanding and awareness of what’s happening to you, or no registered address which stands in the way of you accessing support?
An advocate will work with someone to not only overcome these barriers, but also to give people the skills they need for greater self confidence and independence in the future.
Advocacy has such a crucial and long term benefit to our society that it’s hard to understand the struggle that champions go through to ensure its place in social care policy. Advocates help to break the revolving door cycle of escalating need which takes its toll on individual wellbeing and the cost of care services. Why wait until someone is in crisis before providing them with support?
We hear everyday how our emergency care services are pushed to the limit and once someone has been to that desperate and hopeless place it can be much harder to turn things around. Advocates support people early on, to identify what’s not working for them and to help change things for the better.
Change in policy needs to come from the top. If you believe in advocacy, tell your MP to prioritise services in your area today.