The importance of advocacy in helping older people cope with cancer: In support of the OPAAL led proposal for funding to roll out peer advocacy across the country.
Here at Age UK Gateshead we have been privileged to be part of the national pilot project, led by OPAAL and developed in partnership with other local provider sites across the country, developing peer advocacy support for older people whose lives have been affected by cancer.
The pilot has provided so much rich information on what works, and all that learning has been turned into a strong proposal to roll the work out, enabling more local providers to deliver this important service. The strength of the model in my view is that it provides a solid shared framework and set of quality standards, whilst enabling local VCS providers with local networks and knowledge to respond to local need. The diagnosis of cancer is so devastating for older people, and we have proved that advocacy can make such a difference to their experience of the illness and the support services they are able to access.
At Age UK Gateshead we have unfortunately faced challenges in delivering the pilot at times, primarily due to the local impact of statutory sector restructuring this year, with the loss of many of our contacts within the local authority and PCT/ CCG. We have been supported by OPAAL in developing a new approach to our own local pilot as we recognised the original model of delivery was not quite right for Gateshead. We have worked hard to develop new networks within the health community. We are now on track with a new approach to delivering our cancer advocacy which anchors it more closely to our wider range of services for older people, especially our Information and Advice team.
We are now beginning to develop good relationships with the new CCG team. We are leading on bringing CEOs in the voluntary sector together to improve communications between the new statutory structures and our sector, developing a Single Point of Contact approach which dovetails with existing engagement structures.
I am so grateful to our advocacy coordinator and other members of my management team, and for the ongoing commitment from peer advocate volunteers and local cancer champions who have all enabled us to deliver this project in spite of the difficulties we have faced.
Here’s to a successful national rollout of this valuable new initiative!
Chief Executive Officer Age UK Gateshead.