1. Helping Max

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    Salford Children and Young People

    What was the person’s situation before working with Advocacy Focus? 

    Max is a 19 year old male who is a care leaver, living out of area. Max has additional needs and struggles to retain information. He has been homeless and needed an advocate for support around housing and his rights as a care leaver.

    What did the Independent Advocate do to help the person?

    The advocate built a trusting relationship with Max enabling him to share his past experiences and what he finds hard. He recognised that he was unable to retain information and keep up with the decisions that had been made for him. The advocate with permission spoke to professionals involved and asked if all their updates could be shared vie email in one chain, so that Max could follow and review at any time.

    When Max became homeless the advocate ensured that the relevant professionals were informed, and Max felt safe and secure until a place was found for him. The advocate ensured information was passed correctly between Max and his social worker. Max was told that he could have a free gym pass, but because he was living outside of Salford, the Council were reluctant to give it to him. After a few telephone conversations Max has now got a free gym pass for local gyms.

    What was the outcome?

    Max understands and can see all information in relation to his life. He is gaining confidence when speaking to professionals and has attended some organisations on his own. He now attends the gym for free, which benefits his mental wellbeing. The case is still ongoing, with Max still waiting for a permanent place to live. The advocate will continue to work with Max until he decides he no longer needs an advocate.

    Why was advocacy support so effective?

    Without an advocate Max would not know some of his care leavers rights. Information would not have been shared in a way that he understood, therefore, Max would still feel that he had not been listened to. Max knows that he is being supported by a trusted person. The relationship between Max and his social worker has improved as he feels that actions have been taken for things he has waited for.

    *Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people we support

  2. Trustees Week 2021: Why I Became a Trustee for Advocacy Focus

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    Our Trustee, Chris, tells us how he’s getting on as the newest member of our Board, as part of Trustees Week 2021. Fancy becoming a Trustee for our charity? Then, read on!

    With the first week of November being UK Trustees Week, as a relatively new Trustee I thought I’d share my thoughts on my first twelve months or so in the role with Advocacy Focus.

    So, how did I become a Trustee? Well, it wasn’t something that I had ever really considered before. Pre-Covid, I was fully focused on my consultancy business which involved travelling up and down the country. Then, as we all know, things changed and travelling became more infrequent. I looked for networking opportunities and discovered a regular meeting held virtually at the University of Central Lancashire. Our CEO Justine was in the same meeting, had mentioned that they were on the lookout for new Trustees and following a couple of emails and conversations I was invited to attend my first meeting.

    I didn’t really know much about the concept of advocacy before joining the Board to be honest. I wasn’t sure that I’d necessarily be able to add much value but from the discussions it was clear that my skills would bring something different and that actually it wasn’t a problem.

    The other Trustees and the Senior Leadership Team have been incredibly supportive – I was provided with a buddy on the Board that I could ask any daft questions if I needed to (which I did!).

    Having spent the first few meetings all virtual, we had our first face-to-face Board meeting in October, and it was great to meet my other Trustees in person rather than as a little picture in the corner of a computer screen.

    I’ve also taken every opportunity I could to join in the activities that Board members have been invited to – so I have been to a Wellbeing Day and to a Team Meeting since the pandemic-related restrictions have started to ease. It’s been great to meet the wider team to hear first-hand of their experiences delivering the excellent advocacy work they’re doing on a daily basis. It gives me an opportunity to understand more about what we do as a charity and hopefully at the same time gives the team access to the Board as I have worked in organisations that have been very much an ‘us and them’ mentality between the employees and the Board. I wasn’t able to get to what sounded like an excellent conference that they hosted because of work commitments I couldn’t rearrange but other Trustees attended and fed back on how everyone did a brilliant job.

    In terms of time commitment, I sit on two sub-groups (currently chairing one) and the regular quarterly Board meetings. So it’s probably two or three hours a month I would imagine (attending the other team activities are optional but I’ve been able to work around work commitments). I feel like I’m able to add value and give something back as a result of being a Trustee, and look forward to continuing to do so in the future. I didn’t know about Advocacy Focus before but now am passionate about trying to help them in any small way to being the best they can be.

    By Chris Lintern, Trustee, Advocacy Focus.

    Chris has spent almost 20 years specialising in risk management and resilience across a number of sectors, and set up his own business just over three years ago.  He has worked within financial services within the banking and insurance arms of the Co-op and at Barclays, and moved to Jermyn Consulting in 2014 before establishing Ashton Resilience in 2017.  He provides consultancy support to organisations within financial services, higher and further education, and food manufacturing.

    What is a Trustee?

    Trustees sit on the board of a charity. They play a vital role – volunteering their time and expertise to make important decisions about the charity’s work.

    Why become a Trustee?

    Contact us on 0300 323 0965 or email if you wish to find out more about how to become a Trustee for Advocacy Focus.

  3. Volunteers Week 2021: Meet Ben

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    It’s Volunteers Week and to showcase some of the amazing work our volunteers do, we’d like to share Ben’s story.

    Ben* was 10 years old when he met our volunteer. He lived in foster care with his female foster carer and her mother. Ben’s social worker made a referral into our Independent Visitor service, as Ben wished to have a male influence in his life. Ben has been diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD.

    What is an Independent Visitor (IV)?

    An Independent Visitor is a volunteer who befriends a young person in care. It is an increasingly vital and valuable role that can make a positive difference to a child’s life.

    What our IV did

    Our IV introduced Ben to the local stables for horse riding where he would go two times per week. They also encouraged him to join the Air Cadets, and a youth club. The IV initially took him out twice a month, increasing to three times a month shortly after. Since the pandemic, Ben has continued to move between children’s homes and foster carers, his only constant has been our IV. Over the years they have played football, swimming and occasionally diving; watching ice hockey; cinema; clothes shopping; playing badminton and much more.

    Volunteer Feedback

    Our volunteer said:

    “During the initial contacts, Ben found it hard to trust me and lacked confidence in trying new activities. However, he did gain more confidence, for example, by attending a diving session where he eventually showed no fears in jumping from the 10 metre board. He also learned to trust that I wasn’t reporting back to people all the things he was saying or doing whilst out on visits. Over 4 years we have developed a close relationship. To the extent that with all the changes of placement and phone numbers over the past 18 months, Ben always answers my texts and/or phone calls. Whilst we haven’t been able to see each other very often and certainly haven’t been able to do activities [because of the pandemic] nevertheless we have retained a good relationship and retain trust and respect.”

  4. Jane’s experience of Advocacy Focus

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    My sister has had mental health problems since she had meningitis as a child and the two of us have always been inseparable. As she got older my sister had to live in care homes and that’s when I feel the problems started. I felt that the staff at the care home where my sister was living were mistreating her and actually putting her in danger. I had a social worker at the time but she always seemed to be on the side of the care home staff and I thought allowed them to get away with treating my sister really badly.

    I got in touch with Advocacy Focus because I had heard about advocacy and they have been an absolute lifeline for me and my sister – nothing is too much trouble for them. They came with me when I had to attend meetings between social services and the care home and helped me to understand what was going on and to put my point across. When I’ve had to write letters trying to support my sister, my advocate helped me to say things clearly and get the message over.

    They really have been on my side all along the way and have helped me to get things sorted. At one point I was banned from seeing my sister for 9 months at the care home and that broke my heart, but Advocacy Focus helped me to get that sorted out.

    They have helped me in so many ways over the years, I really couldn’t have managed without them.”

    * the person’s name has been changed in order to protect her identity

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