Life in Lockdown: Essex Advocacy Service

04/08/2020

The pandemic has required many of our services to adapt quickly to lockdown, while still delivering vital support. Craig from our Essex All Age Advocacy service tells us some of the challenges they have faced over the last six months - and how they have continued to support people in their community in that time.

Advocates help people to understand their rights and options and support them to express what they need. In my role as an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate I work with people who have difficulty communicating, for example because they are living with dementia or a mental illness.

  • One client I work with had been very independent but within the space of three months became bedbound and unable to communicate.

One client I work with had been very independent but within the space of three months became bedbound and unable to communicate. There were lots of conflicting opinions about where they should live and how they should be cared for, but the one person who couldn’t make their views made was the person who it affected. That’s where I come in. I might sit with someone and use picture cards to help them communicate. Or I might speak to the people who know them best, to help me understand what they would want.

I also look at how someone’s needs can be met. For example, if they want to stay at home but their family are struggling to provide the care they need, we might be able to get more community care support.

Because I usually go out and meet people face to face, the last few months have been challenging. When coronavirus started, we stopped making visits before the country went into lockdown. We knew it was the best thing to do to protect the people we work with, but there was a real sense of ‘oh no, what do we do now?’.

  • We’re used to visiting people and being able to use things such as body language to help us communicate. Talking to people over the phone or on video calls felt much less effective.

We’re used to visiting people and being able to use things such as body language to help us communicate. Talking to people over the phone or on video calls felt much less effective – and some of our clients might not be able to use the phone, or might not understand why we have stopped visiting. It’s much harder to build the relationship that results in good advocacy remotely. Luckily, my colleagues are great! But it does take a lot more work and creativity.

Pre-covid I had a caseload of around 50 clients – that’s dropped to 20 or 30. Things take so much longer at the moment. We’ve also had to attend online training on the emergency legislation introduced by the government in response to the crisis, and how that affects people’s rights and the care that can be provided.

We are starting to do a very limited number of face to face visits again now, but there has to be a really clear justification. Many of our clients are vulnerable, and the last thing we want to do is be responsible for passing on the virus.

We provide a lot of educational and self-help materials on our website, to help people understand their rights and begin to self-advocate. But we know there are times when there is no substitute for having the support of a trained advocate, so we would encourage anyone in Essex who needs support to contact us.

 

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