Author Archives: Kim Walsh

  1. A Day at Westminster

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    By Jason Cherry, Advocacy Co-Ordinator at Advocacy Focus

    In March I had the amazing opportunity to join Sara Britcliffe, MP for Hyndburn, in Westminster. A very early start but well worth it.

    I arrived in London and after visiting all the usual tourist attractions, I went to meet Sara and her team at Westminster. Here, I had a tour of Westminster Hall, The House of Commons, where I stood, where the PM stands and The Houses of Parliament. I even went into The Chapel of St Mary’s where Emily Davison hid (Google her…. girl power before the Spice Girls!). What a beautiful hidden church and on set days they hold services there.

    Westminster Hall is steeped in history. The most recent is a plaque of where Queen Elizabeth II lay in state, not to mention plaques for where Nelson Mandella and Winston Churchill stood.

    I was lucky enough to take part in a Question-and-Answer session held in one of the committee rooms off Westminster Hall, I even saw Jeremy Corbyn!

    I finished on The Terrace with Sara and her lovely team, where I took the opportunity to have a photo.

    What a fantastic day and a fabulous experience.

    Thank you to Sara and her team for an unforgettable trip.

    Thank you to Advocacy Focus for believing in me and for being a very inclusive place to work.

  2. CUBE HR announces Advocacy Focus as ‘Charity of the Year’ and launches £1,000 fundraiser goal

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    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to announce that CUBE HR has picked us as their charity of the year for 2024.

    CUBE HR is a leading provider of human resources solutions, offering a range of services designed to empower businesses to manage their workforce effectively. With a focus on innovation and excellence, CUBE HR partners with organisations to deliver tailored HR solutions that drive success.

    “We are delighted to partner with Advocacy Focus as our charity of the year,” said Stuart Wright, HR Consultant at CUBE HR. “As a small business, we think it is important to give something back to our community, so we choose a local ‘charity of the year’ each year. We love the work that Advocacy Focus does and want to help in some way, to make sure this work continues.”

    To kickstart the partnership, CUBE HR has launched a fundraiser to take place on Monday 3rd June 2024 in which employees from both CUBE HR and Advocacy Focus will be taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks. This walk is not just a physical challenge, but a real chance to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

    Donations to this fundraiser can be made through the JustGiving page. All funds will go towards ensuring Advocacy Focus can continue to provide advocacy services to people within the community. Every donation counts, no matter how big or small.

    “We are so grateful to CUBE HR for choosing us as their charity of the year,” said Justine Forster, CEO at Advocacy Focus. “This fundraiser will make such a difference to the lives of people we support and help us to continue our vital community advocacy work. Every donation we receive will go straight into our services and will support people that need our help when it comes to their health and social care needs.”

    CUBE HR has invited people and businesses alike to join them in supporting Advocacy Focus by taking part in their fundraising efforts throughout 2024. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most.


    Are you a business looking to work with a local charity?

    We would be happy to talk to you about Advocacy Focus becoming your nominated charity, either via a ‘one-off’ fundraising campaign or, like CUBE HR, as your ‘Charity of the Year.’

    Advocacy Focus would be keen to meet you and to talk more about how we can work in partnership to extend the reach of our advocacy support, so that no one falls through the gaps because of overstretched services.

    We can develop a tailored corporate and social responsibility support package in return for your help, which will benefit your team and business, whilst supporting the local community.

    If you would like to discuss this further, please email marketing@advocacyfocus.org.uk.

  3. Breaking Barriers 2024: Reflections On a Day

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    So today is about finding solutions so that people can access the care and support they need.”

    – Justine Forster, CEO at Advocacy Focus

    Thursday 21st March 2024 saw the return of our long-awaited Breaking Barriers conference. With over 100 attendees, the day featured ground-breaking talks and workshops from leading sector experts and professionals from health and social care and beyond.

    Our Breaking Barriers conferences are dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the importance of advocacy and the impact it has on our communities.

    Sharing knowledge and experiences through events such as this is key to breaking down the barriers that stop people from receiving the right care and treatment.

    Hosted by Jake Mills, CEO of Chasing the Stigma, the day featured the following speakers and topics:

    Our headline speakers:

    • Neil Allen from 39 Essex Chambers discussed ‘Making the best use of Deprivations of Liberty Safeguards’.
    • Laura Ingham from Armed Forces HQ raised awareness on ‘Advocating for the armed forces community’.
    • Darren from Mission Impossible, Trafford Self-Advocacy Group talked about ‘The Importance of Self-Advocacy.’
    • Justine Forster and Leanne Hignett from Advocacy Focus discussed ‘The Six Ps’ and the importance of self-advocacy and prevention.
    • Ellie Bradley from Advocacy Focus shared ‘Reflections a year on: Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings’

    Our workshops:

    • Philippa Curran from Odonnells – ‘Welfare Matters’
    • Sophie Maloney from Stephensons Solicitors (our headline sponsor) – ‘Capacity, social media and the internet’
    • Malcolm Johnson from Lime Solicitors – ‘The Rights of Looked after Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children’

    • Demi Houghton from Advocacy Focus – ‘Challenging Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards’
    • Kate Mercer from Kate Mercer Training – ‘You can’t do mountaineering in your lunch break; what it takes to deliver awesome advocacy’
    • Helen Barker and Faye Doherty from Irwin Mitchell – ‘Capacity to sexual relations’

    Barriers Broken

    The core mission of Breaking Barriers has always been to ignite lasting change well beyond the event’s conclusion.

    Reviewing the feedback we have received from attendees, we have done just that.

    Keeping up to date with legislation, championing fairness, and amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard are vital steps in realising our vision. And how barriers are easier to break when we work together.

    Our Breaking Barriers events serve as a timely reminder of this.

    “We need to give people straightforward access to advocacy and wider services. If we can’t help people, we will partner with someone who can.”

    – Justine Forster, CEO at Advocacy Focus

    *Images courtesy of Liz Henson Photography.


    Give a #cuppakindness and support our Community Cuppa campaign.

    We are currently running a fundraiser for our Community Focus Hub in Burnley to provide a warm space where people can visit our team and volunteers, grab a free cuppa, information, and advice, and most importantly stay awhile in a safe space free from judgement.

    We have a recommended donation of £5, but any amount would be appreciated. Please help us by sharing this with your networks if you can.

    Donate through Just Giving

  4. Breaking Barriers Conference 2024

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    Breaking Barriers is back after a highly successful conference in 2021; attended by over 100 health and social care professionals across the North West. The feedback was just as positive with 100% of delegates stating they walked away having learned something new.

    Breaking Barriers aims to bridge the gaps between services and provide better outcomes for the people we support. It is one day dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the importance of advocacy and the impact it has on our communities.

    With ground-breaking talks and workshops from leading industry professionals, key speakers and more; we bring you the latest trends, case law, legislation changes affecting the health and social care industry and much more.

    Confirmed host!

    Jake Mills, CEO of Chasing the Stigma, will be returning to host our third Breaking Barriers Conference. An expert in mental health and wellbeing, and Advocacy Focus’ Patron, Jake is a true advocate of our mission to make advocacy accessible to all.

    Headline speaker – Francesca Gardner from 39 Essex Chambers – ‘What now the Mental Health Act reform is ditched?’

    Headline speaker – Neil Allen from 39 Essex Chambers – ‘Making the best use of Deprivations of Liberty Safeguards’

    Headline speaker – Darren from Mission Impossible, Trafford Self-Advocacy Group – ‘The Importance of Self-Advocacy’

    Workshop speaker – Philippa Curran from odonnells – ‘Welfare Matters” 

    Workshop speaker – Sophie Maloney from Stephensons Solicitors – ‘Internet, social media, and mental capacity’

    Workshop speaker – Malcolm Johnson from Lime Solicitors – ‘Looked after Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers’

    Workshop speaker – Advocacy Focus – ‘Challenging DoLS’

    Workshop speaker – Kate Mercer from Kate Mercer Training – ‘Awesome Advocacy

    Workshop speaker – Laura Ingham from Armed Forces HQ – ‘Advocating for the armed forces community’

    Date – Thursday 21 March 2024 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (UTC+00)

    Venue – Farington Lodge, Stanifield Lane, Farington, Leyland, PR25 4QR

    Sponsored by

    Book your tickets here Breaking Barriers 2024 – Advocacy Focus

  5. Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year

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    The ongoing cost of living crisis has caused huge financial pressures for many people and is currently one of the leading causes of stress in the UK.  With a 23% increase being noted from 2022. A recent survey found that people are feeling anxious, stressed, and hopeless due to their current financial situation. The same survey found that financial concerns were impacting on people’s day-to-day activities, with 30% of adults having a poorer quality of sleep, 23% meeting friends less often, and 12% exercising less.

    But poor mental health doesn’t just carry a huge personal cost. Recent research shows that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year – and this figure is growing year on year.

    There is however good news! If businesses invest in supporting their people’s mental health, they will not only see a gain in productivity, fewer sickness absences and lower staff turnover, work can provide a sense of purpose, structure and create meaningful connections. All of which is health-promoting for the employee.

    And while many organisations currently invest in some level of mental health support, recent data reveals a lack of employee engagement and take-up. So why aren’t people engaging with support that is set up to help them?

    There are many reasons, but the main one is the stigma, that still exists in many workplaces. People may fear that they will be treated differently, that they won’t be considered for promotion, or that they risk losing their jobs if they tell someone they are struggling. That is why it is crucial that workplaces develop a positive culture around mental health and wellbeing. Support has to be widely available, in an easy, stigma-free way. And that is where Advocacy Focus can help you!

    Our charity has worked in the health and social care sector for over 25 years. Supporting people who are living through some of the most challenging times of their life. In our own workplace, we don’t just talk the talk, we have delivered impactful wellbeing initiatives for over 10 years! More recently our work was recognised nationally when we were awarded ‘Top Employer’ in the charity Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index – for two years in a row. Not bad for a small charity in the North of England!

    It’s our proudest achievement, because it’s an award that celebrates all we have done and continue to do for our people. We invest in them first and foremost, because they are our most valuable resource and we couldn’t deliver our services across the North-West without them. So if like us you recognise that without your team your business would crumble, it is time to act!

    Don’t be another UK business losing thousands of pounds, or good people, to poor mental health. Our training and consultancy services can help you:

    • Improve productivity
    • Decrease sickness absences
    • Create more motivated teams

    And more…

    Get in touch with Carolina at Training@advocacyfocus.org.uk to discuss your training needs!

    Refs:

    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/policy-and-advocacy/mental-health-and-cost-of-living-crisis-report

    Champion Health. The Workplace Health Report: 2023. https://championhealth.co.uk/insights/guides/workplace-health-report/

  6. Check Out Micaela’s experience as an Independent Visitor:

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    We would like to shine a spotlight on one of our amazing volunteer Independent Visitors, Micaela, who has ten years sports coaching experience in schools and recently qualified to be a psychologist.

    Micaela told us, “I have seen how important it is for young people to have someone to reach out to and have that 1-1 nurturing support as when they don’t, you can see how much it affects them”. I wanted to make a difference for those that needed this and this is my way of giving back”.

    During Micaela’s time with us, she has made a huge contribution. When Micaela first met her young person, she was full of apprehension, wondering whether the match with her young person would be a success.  Both Michaela and her young person soon connected and became relaxed, it soon became apparent that her young person is very keen about sports; loving watching football and longing to play. Micaela is the perfect match and they hit it off!

    Since becoming an Independent Visitor, Micaela has been creative in finding activities suitable for her young person and helping explore things that her young person had not tried before.

    The search for a local football club is underway and Michaela regularly takes her young person to Liverpool ladies football matches, which her young person says is “magical” as she had never been to one. Michaela’s young person said “I absolutely loved it” and her foster family tell us that “she had not stopped talking about it for days”.

    And it doesn’t stop there …  Micaela has been supporting her young person to experience new and exciting activities, including Ninja Warrior, going bowling and to the cinema. The foster family have also fed back that the young person is really excited about Micaela’s visits and asks repeatedly “when is Micaela is coming?”


  7. New Community Focus Hub opening in Burnley

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    We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new Community Focus Hub in Burnley.

    On Thursday, 1st February 2024 we are having an Open Day and you’re invited.

    You can find out more about the support we can offer, learn about other organisations in your area, and engage with the community.

    Join us for a day of information, connection, and community engagement.

    Please come along on

    Date: Thursday, 1st February
    Time: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    Location: 16c Hargreaves St, Burnley, BB11 1DZ

    Refreshments: Tea, coffee, and cakes

    About Community Focus:

    The Community Focus Hub is dedicated to supporting individuals facing health and social care challenges.

    We extend our assistance in areas such as housing, benefits, access to training, education, and employment.

    Our community team is on hand to provide 1-1 advocacy support for a range of issues and is here to help you live the life you want to live.

    How to get involved:

    Please save the date: Pop the date in your calendar for the Community Focus Open Day!

    Help spread the word: Share this invitation with friends, family, and anyone who might benefit.

    Bring Questions: Our team will be on hand to address your queries and concerns.

    Engage and Connect: Be part of a supportive community network.

    What to expect at the Community Focus Hub Open Day:

    Information Booths: Gain insights into health and social care, housing, and more.

    Education and Training Opportunities: Discover pathways to enhance your skills.

    Employment Resources: Explore job opportunities and career advice.

    Volunteer Opportunities: Learn about ways to give back to your community.

    Let’s come together to create a stronger, more connected community. Your presence makes a difference! 

  8. We are raising vital funds for our Looked After Children Services and need your help.  Here is Stephen’s story:

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    Stephen is 7 years old and has ASD& ADHD.   He was placed with a foster family after a very difficult childhood and was soon thriving. The entire foster family thought of him as “their own” and he was settled for the first time in his life.

    However, a year later the decision was taken by the local authority to move Stephen and place him with another foster family, due to how close he was living to his birth family and the risk this posed. The impact for everyone was potentially devastating.

    Our Advocate worked with Stephen, fiercely championed his rights and highlighted the impact of such a move to the local authority. After a very lengthy and emotionally charged process – which involved gaining the support of the Children’s Commissioner for England – the local authority apologised for their actions and agreed that Stephen would not be moved.  They then agreed to support the foster family with a house relocation to reduce any future risks and to keep Stephen and his new family together. 

    Stephen continues to thrive and is happy and settled thanks to the support of his tenacious Advocate.

    To make a donation to help others like Stephen, please donate via our Christmas Campaign page here or visit our just giving page here

    Read the full story of how we supported Stephen here

  9. Winner of the Outstanding Advocate Award 2023

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    Our awesome Independent Advocate, Pauline, has won the award for Outstanding Advocate at this year’s National Advocacy Awards. 

    Below is the nomination for the award (written by Leanne Hignett, our Services Director) which gives you an insight into the support that was given by Pauline to Milly.

    You can watch the video of Pauline’s nomination here https://youtu.be/xiJdj1OPtcA

    I am thrilled to nominate Pauline for this award in recognition of her unwavering dedication, fearless passion, and steadfast commitment to advocacy since 2007. If I had to pick one (of many) scenarios in which to highlight Pauline’s ability to overcome adversity to make a real difference to another person’s life, it would be in the case of Milly.

    Pauline supported Milly on an advocacy journey like no other, beginning as her community advocate over 10 years ago before going on to support with a range of statutory advocacy approaches, many of which Pauline delivered simultaneously.

    It was strongly suspected that Milly had high functioning autism and, having spent most of her life in the care of her mother, her passing meant that Milly sadly found herself living alone in the decommissioned council flat they had once shared. Milly desperately wanted support and was articulate when contacting other agencies however, her diagnosis of agoraphobia meant she would not leave her home and would rarely let others in. This led health and social care services to dismiss Milly’s calls for help, as they simply felt she was choosing not to engage.

    Pauline saw beyond this, recognising that Milly’s conditions were likely having an impact on her executive functioning. Milly began sharing with Pauline and her GP that she was experiencing heavy bleeding and pain. Pauline recognised that the way other professionals were dismissing Milly meant that she was going a prolonged amount of time without investigation or treatment. Pauline tenaciously battled with other agencies to urge them to adapt their standard ways of working to ensure Milly’s situation was escalated. Pauline also shared Milly’s communication needs, using this to promote the increased engagement professionals could have with Milly if they altered their approach. Pauline’s tenacity eventually resulted in Milly’s admission to hospital and, following a series of tests, Milly was sadly diagnosed with cervical cancer.

    Milly’s expressed wishes were conflicting with her views and hopes for the future. Despite stating she did not want to die, Milly refused to consider any treatment for her cancer. Pauline pressed for a specialist to assess Milly’s capacity, someone who would consider her complex communication style. Pauline managed to do this by advocating the views Milly had shared herself, relaying a statement Milly made that,

    “My brain doesn’t always work – it’s like I am working with only half a brain. I misunderstand things. I get things wrong, and I need someone to help me make the right decisions.”

    As a result, a specialist assessment was commissioned and Milly was found to lack capacity regarding the decision to have treatment for her cancer. Unfortunately, the time that had elapsed meant that there was no longer an option to pursue treatment. Pauline began supporting Milly to advocate for where she wanted to spend her final weeks and eventually Milly moved to a hospice by the seaside she had always loved to visit as a child. The hospice were immensely grateful for the support Pauline provided during the transition, as this enabled them to provide greater person-centred care to Milly in her final weeks.”

    “Pauline provided amazing support for one of our patients who was admitted for end-of-life care. From the very moment the patient was admitted Pauline was actively seeking out ways to work with us and support the patient. Pauline had known the patient for many years, and we found it invaluable that she knew how to best communicate with her and what her preferences were. The patient told us how much Pauline had done for her, how much she trusted her and wanted her to be fully involved in supporting her with her decisions and wishes.  Pauline’s involvement helped the team here to fulfil some of the patients end of life wishes which was so important, she provided a great deal of emotional and psychological support, and even after the patient died, Pauline was advocating for her wishes to be upheld. Pauline was pivotal to the care this patient received and her experiences at the end of her life, she was amazing.”

    Unfortunately, where a local authority arranges a public funeral, it does so at minimal expense. This meant that despite Milly’s dying wish to be buried in her hometown, a decision was made for a non-attendance cremation with no service. This was unacceptable to Pauline, who took it upon herself to advocate for Milly’s wishes after her passing. Pauline tenaciously challenged the council’s decision, going as far as to make a FOI request to enquire under what circumstances the council utilised its power to make discretionary decisions about public funerals. Pauline’s challenge did not go unnoticed, and Milly received a beautiful service and burial, which her advocate and other professionals devotedly attended.

    Following her death, Milly’s story was heard by the national safeguarding group of NHS England. Both Pauline and the remainder of the MDT were nominated and subsequently won an NHS Safeguarding Star Award. However, knowing Milly’s views on the matter and not wanting to jeopardise her independence, Pauline decided to decline the award. Though I have no doubt she deserved the recognition.”

    Some of the additional feedback given for Pauline and her support of Milly …

    Here at Advocacy Focus we are so proud to have had 3 of our advocates be chosen as winners over the years for this highly regarded award.

  10. Advocacy Focus wins Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at the HSJ Patient Safety Awards

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    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to share the news that our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot won the Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards. Awards which recognise safety, cultures and positive experiences in patient care.

    The event celebrates hard-working teams and people across the UK, who, facing staff shortages and cuts due to rising financial costs, still go above and beyond to deliver a high level of patient care and provide safe settings for people.

    A record-breaking 516 entries were received with 206 organisations, projects and people making it to the final shortlist, after two rounds of rigorous judging.

    The Awards were the highlight of HSJ’s annual two-day Patient Safety Congress where delegates took part in open and honest discussions around the current reality faced by patients in terms of their safety.

    Health Editor of the Sunday Times, Shaun Lintern who Chaired the HSJ Patient Safety Congress said;

    “As in previous years, the HSJ Patient Safety Awards ceremony formed a key part of our 2023 Congress and it’s always such an honour to be a position to congratulate all of the winners, which this year includes Advocacy Focus who scooped ‘top spot’ in the category of Mental Health Safety Improvement.

    The award winning pilot involved working with autistic inpatients across Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) hospitals. The aim was to gather people’s views, wishes and experiences about their care and treatment and their experience of advocacy services. This feedback was to help shape inpatient services and meet the needs of autistic people.  Feedback that would help all services involved improve and effectively support people to have better outcomes.

    Advocacy Focus felt privileged to work with and amplify the voices of people in inpatient settings and promote change to better meet their own unique needs and  experiences. We provided advocacy to a group of people who would not ordinarily have such support, and to have that work recognised, was an incredible cause for celebration for all the team involved.

    Our Advocacy Manager, Ellie Bradley, that led on the pilot said:  “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won this award for our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot project. The pilot was set up to help bridge the gap in the Mental Health Act and provide advocacy support to autistic informal patients. This work took important steps towards ensuring that people’s wishes and views were heard and respected. Supporting this often overlooked group of people to be aware of their rights and support them to have their needs listened to and met, will essentially go some way to improving both their safety and long term outcomes.”

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