Advocacy in Somerset has been a registered charity since 2001 and is also a company limited by guarantee. Our mission has always been to provide an independent advocacy service to vulnerable adults and young people in Somerset, mainly but not exclusively experiencing mental health problems. To give a voice to, and protect the rights of vulnerable adults and young people disempowered by illness, disability or the nature of service provision.
We are a grassroots service and make no apology for our dogged adherence to the values and principles of independent advocacy and its role in allowing the most vulnerable in our society a voice where theirs and their rights may be suppressed as a result of often unintentional poor practice or neglect and sometimes as a result of gross acts of discrimination or neglect.
History of the organisation
Our focus has been on establishing a good quality independent advocacy service in Somerset. This has entailed positive and constructive working with commissioners and the development of engagement protocols with service providers so that we have a shared understanding of what advocacy is and the mutual expectations of all parties. We have not just taken a parochial approach to this work but have been at the forefront of developments in advocacy nationally.
We developed some of the earliest training courses in Advocacy Skills, helped to influence policy with regard to the commissioning of advocacy services and had significant input into the consultations around the development of the now statutory advocacy services of IMCA and IMHA. We were pioneering in our work with Young People and developed the Headspace Toolkit used nationwide by Tier 4 Young People’s units to support self-advocacy for young people in these settings. In 2009 we were commissioned by the Republic of Ireland to develop a similar tool for use in their institutions as they begin to recognise the value of advocacy for very vulnerable young people. As a result of work in partnership with Tros Gynnal in Wales and funds from the National Lottery, we also developed ‘Through the Maze’ a toolkit for potential providers of advocacy services to young people.
What for the future?
Independent Advocacy in our view is a significant safeguard at a time where, as a result of austerity measures, public services are ‘raising the bar’ in terms of access criteria. It is a time when health and social care policies are emphasising as never before the importance of providing services according to properly assessed need and in the most person-centred manner, emphasising health and wellbeing and quality of life while at the same time coming under immense financial pressure that challenges the ability to deliver such high-quality services.
So it can be argued that it is a time like never before when independent advocacy is needed in order to help the many and increasing vulnerable people to have a voice and ensure that their needs are really taken into account and valued when being assessed for services. We stand on the brink of a yet another new piece of powerful legislation in the form of the Care Act 2014 that will extend still further the right of people to access advocacy to support their quest for appropriate and effective health and social care services. Advocacy in Somerset intends to continue at the forefront of services championing the rights of the most vulnerable in our society.
Advocacy in Somerset
Tel: 01458 253053