Winner of the Outstanding Advocate Award 2023

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.

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