Our Reading Voice service provides trained advocates who support people in vulnerable circumstances to understand their options, have their say and make choices.
Below, one of our advocates describes her role.
What inspired you to become an advocate?
Whilst managing another frontline service, I met an advocate working with a mutual service user. This person had a sensory disability and also a serious mental health disorder and found communication difficult with statutory services. I worked collaboratively with this person and her advocate and saw how communication was improved significantly with the advocate’s support, enabling the client to express her needs and wishes.
After considering my future career, that might fit in with my own caring responsibilities, I found myself looking at an opportunity with Healthwatch Reading, which oversees the Reading Voice service.
What skills and training were needed?
I had transferable skills from many years of working in the social care sector. Healthwatch Reading arranged specific advocacy training and support and I qualified with a Diploma in Independent Advocacy which incorporated other facets of advocacy, such as Independent Mental Health Advocacy (for people who are placed in psychiatric wards under the Mental Health Act) and Care Act Advocacy (for people who face adult social services assessments, reviews or safeguarding enquiries).
What’s the role like?
This training and on-the-job experience enabled me to take a skilled approach with clients, giving them a voice of their own to have a say in their care planning and also assuring that their rights were upheld and achieving quality of life.
Like other social care work, this front-line role can be tough, emotional and frustrating at times, but overall the outcomes make up for this, in particular feeling the empowerment given to my clients, knowing they had my support and through hard work, improve their wellbeing and outcomes whatever their situation - giving me great job satisfaction.
Testemonials about our advocates
"The advocates have been tremendously client-centred, and have taken time to get to know the clients and work within their communication needs in a really positive way.”
“I would like to let you know that the support that the advocate provided to my client was brilliant and has resulted in some very important information."
“She has been fantastic working with Mr M. She has built an excellent working relationship with him. We had a video call last week and I was just amazed at how well they communicate, Mr M looked and sounded like a new man compared to how he was. The power of skilled listening and communication from an advocate I would recommend highly and I am very grateful for all her work and what she has achieved.”
The advocacy role
- Be independent: they can't be employed by NHS, social services or care providers
- Put clients first: get their voice heard, not just rely on views of professionals or family
- Be DBS checked: to ensure they are safe to work with clients
- Be safeguarding trained: to recognise and know how to report suspected abuse
- Undergo advocacy training: including some qualifications specified in law
- Follow the nationally recognised Code of Practice for Advocates
- Follow our workplace policies: including those on equality and diversity