1. 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

    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.

  2. Advocacy Focus Once Again Wins QPM Award!

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    The Quality Performance Mark (QPM) is the only quality mark for organisations that deliver Independent Advocacy. The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) is responsible for assessing and awarding organisations with QPM status. Being awarded the QPM is confirmation that an organisation is delivering the gold standard of advocacy- you are amongst the crème de la crème of advocacy services. It is widely recognised and respected across the advocacy sector. It demonstrates that an organisation is delivering advocacy in line with the Advocacy Charter. Here at Advocacy Focus we pride ourselves on quality, so much so it is included as one of our organisation’s core values. So, achieving QPM status is a huge deal for us!

    The purpose of a QPM assessment is to make sure that our advocacy policies are up to date, we are following best practice, and all our delivery is in line with the QPM standards that are required to gain and hold the award. The QPM assessment gives us an opportunity to showcase to an industry expert all the work that we do, who then examines how we are delivering our advocacy services in line with the QPM standards and the Advocacy Charter. We’re then given useful feedback that we can use to shape and develop our services further.

    We have proudly held QPM for many years, and every 3 years we undergo further assessment to hold our QPM status, which ensures that we continue to meet the standard. We recently underwent our assessment for QPM once again and are happy to confirm that we achieved our QPM status once more!

    Some of the glowing feedback from NDTi demonstrates exactly how we are delivering quality advocacy services in line with the principles of the Advocacy Charter:

    Clarity of Purpose – “Advocates had an impressive understanding of the importance of being clear about their roles, remits, and professional boundaries and how to communicate the purpose of advocacy to people who use their services and to professionals. They were clear about the purpose of all the types of advocacy they offer. This was reflected throughout the organisation.”

    Independence – “Advocates and Mangers clearly prioritise their independence from service providers, funders, commissioners, and other stakeholders. They gave excellent examples of how they maintain their independence in practice and how important it is to demonstrate independence to people who use their services.”

    Person-led and empowerment – “This is an outstanding area of good practice. Advocacy Focus supports self-advocacy with toolkits and other resources, such as the Justice for LB Toolkit available on the website. Advocates were clear about ways in which they work in a person-centred way and how they support people to get their voices heard. Advocacy Focus has co-produced excellent easy read guides and documents. There was a clear commitment to encouraging self-advocacy wherever possible. Advocacy Focus has a commitment to learning from people who use the services, for example using feedback from its RPR service to create a new RPR fact sheet.”

    Accessibility – “Easy read options and a very clear website ensure that services are accessible, along with use of translations and interpreters when needed. The website has an excellent video: ‘What is advocacy and how can we help you to self-advocate?

    Supporting Advocates – “This is another outstanding area of excellence at Advocacy Focus. Staff report feeling very well supported and staff wellbeing is clearly prioritised. There is an open, trusting culture of honesty, peer support, managerial support, enquiry and reflection, teamwork, personal and organisational development. Staff reported manageable workloads, autonomy, and good communication. Staff and volunteers appreciate outstanding and positive leadership around wellbeing.”

    As part of the assessment process the QPM assessor speaks to people who have worked closely with Advocacy Focus, including people our Independent Advocates have supported, and external professionals in the health and social care sector. Some of the wonderful feedback we received from our stakeholders included:

    “My advocate understood my needs and wishes, we had rapport straight away…I’d still be there now if it wasn’t for them. There’s nothing they could have done better, she was superb. The outcome was exactly what I wanted, largely due to the advocate.” – Person who has used services

    “She had a lovely manner, very skilled, very person centred. – Person who has used services

    “I could always get in touch (with the advocate), messages were always passed on and responded to. The whole services was excellent, really welcoming, nothing was too much trouble.” – Person who has used services

    “(The advocate was) helpful, listened to me and what I was dealing with, help with paperwork, even though the outcome was not what I wanted, her help was phenomenal, she went above and beyond. The advocate and the company, no-one else has ever helped me like that.” – Person who has used services.

    They provide a very clear voice for the individual, their reports are very thorough with detailed evidence of what the person is saying, next steps and any action.” – Health and social care professional

    Advocates create and maintain positive working relationships whilst also being very forceful on the side of the child or young person they are working with.” – Health and social care professional

    “The quality of their reports is excellent. They are like a dog with a bone, they are persistent… I have confidence that they do the job properly, they know DOLS inside out. They have the confidence to challenge where they need to. 10 out of 10.” – Health and social care professional

    Hearing feedback like this makes us so proud to have an amazing team who are dedicated to going above and beyond to deliver quality advocacy worthy of the QPM award. Here’s to another 3 years of being a QPM awarded advocacy provider!

    We are completely humbled by the glowing assessment, and we have big plans for the charity over the next three years, with a continued commitment to young people and adults across the North, helping people live the lives they want to live!

  3. Advocacy Focus Retains Mind Gold Award for Workplace Wellbeing in 2021/22

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    Advocacy Focus is proud to once again be recognised by Mind in their annual Workplace Wellbeing Index, ranking second place overall for our wellbeing initiatives out of 114 organisations.

    The Workplace Wellbeing Index is a benchmark of best policy and practice for supporting mental health at work. As part of the index our staff completed Mind’s anonymous wellbeing survey to assess our culture, initiatives, and overall attitude to mental health, plus how we’re responding to the COVID19 pandemic.

    Justine Hodgkinson, CEO, says:

    “It’s been a tough year for our team, having to completely change the way they work, not being able to physically be there for the people they support, having to learn new technologies and juggle home, family and work life, so it was vital that we had robust support procedures in place.

    “We are delighted to see that our team are happy with our approach and are confident in our ability to support them. When our team feels supported, they are in a much better position to support the people in our communities. We are extremely pleased to be recognised by Mind and to come second overall out of 114 organisations is a real testament to the work we have put in behind the scenes.

    “But our work is never done. Now, as we face the easing of restrictions, resume face to face meetings and bring people back to the office, we know we’re going to have to ensure we tailor these policies and procedures for a new working world.

    Over the next 12 months we want to give other workplaces across the North West the opportunity to achieve gold standard, workplace wellbeing. Which is where our mental health training comes in and how this will give every organisation that works with us, the opportunity to support their team to turn up to work as the best versions of themselves.

    “I am so proud to be in a workplace that challenges mental health stigma and work alongside a team that feel comfortable and confident to normalise the conversation about mental health. Over the next 12 months we want to give other workplaces across the North West the opportunity to achieve gold standard, workplace wellbeing. Which is where our mental health training comes in and how this will give every organisation that works with us, the opportunity to support their team to turn up to work as the best versions of themselves.”

    • To find out more about the Mind Wellbeing Index, click here.
    • To view Advocacy Focus workplace mental health training courses, click here.
  4. Awards Season Kicks off with a Bang for Advocacy Focus

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    It’s been a challenging year for many charities and we know first-hand just how many of us have had to adapt quickly to support more people than ever during constantly changing restrictions and guidelines.

    Many in our sector have done an amazing job, quickly adapting processes, procedures and embracing technology, whilst absorbing large operating costs, to continue to support those who need us.  Embracing new technology to ensure that our team were agile and responsive, and out in the communities that needed us the most.

    That’s why this year’s awards season is going to be extremely tough; with many charities and businesses alike deserving to be recognised for the way they have faced and handled the pandemic.

    We are so proud to be one of those charities.

    We have been shortlisted for three awards at this year’s Hyndburn Business Awards and one award at this year’s BIBAs.

    Our CEO, Justine Hodgkinson, says: “The awards season is always so impressive, with many amazing businesses and charities from our area; we absolutely love seeing all the success stories in Lancashire and Hyndburn.

    “After the last year, more stories begin to emerge about all those amazing businesses and charities who have weathered a difficult 12 months and who deserve to be recognised. We are extremely proud of our team for the way they have faced this pandemic and continued to support those who needed us, and they too deserve to be up there.”

    We are shortlisted for Large Business of the Year, the Non-Profit Award and the Workplace Development Award at this year’s Hyndburn Business Awards and the Community Business of the Year at this year’s BIBAs.

    We have made many changes in our charity over the last 12 months, including launching new projects in response to the pandemic, supporting people with and via technology, working with professionals to ensure wrap-around support and looking after the mental health and wellbeing of our own team whilst they adapt to working more flexibly.

    Justine finishes: “We are excited to be able to celebrate with everyone face to face and network with all these amazing professionals in one room once again. We wish all those shortlisted good luck for the awards and all the best for the year ahead.”

    • The Hyndburn Business Awards celebrates the achievements, quality and diversity of local businesses and people in Hyndburn.
    • The BIBAs are Lancashire’s longest running business awards programme and run by the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce. The awards celebrate businesses and entrepreneurs across the county.
  5. Our Advocacy Service is classed as ‘Outstanding’ at the National Advocacy Awards 2016

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    The National Advocacy Awards celebrates outstanding people, organisations and practice in the field of Independent Advocacy. The ‘Outstanding Service’ category recognises services that are making a difference locally by providing creative and innovative ways of evolving their support. Katrina Kelly, Service Delivery Director at Advocacy Focus has always maintained that her committed team of Senior Advocates and Advocates is top class, but now the recognition at a national level and beating off stiff competition just goes to prove it.

    Advocacy Focus’s winning strand of advocacy is based on our IMHA activities following the publication of ‘A Right to be Heard. We worked hard with our multi-agency partners to establish a new ‘opt out’ policy.

    In addition to tackling the real life hurdles of Information Governance, Caldicott Policies, the relocation of 19 wards to one specialist unit, and amalgamating 6 different Mental Health Act Administrators ways of working, an opt out policy for automatic referral at the point of Section was finally introduced after a long period of dedication by the team. As a result of the initiative, IMHA referrals increased by over 400% in the first year and on average we continue to work with 268 detained patients per month.

    In addition, our very own Advocate Leanne Barber was a shortlisted finalist and voted Highly Commended in the ‘Outstanding advocate’ category, which recognises people who truly make a difference to the world through their advocacy practice. Well done Leanne! The Awards Ceremony was held on October 12th in Birmingham, for more details, see

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