Here at AgeUK Bristol we are now three months in to the Cancer Older People and Advocacy project and are developing some momentum. Much of our time since the project began has been spent contacting the many relevant agencies and groups in Bristol that we hope our work will compliment, from nurses groups to specialist benefit advisers for people affected by cancer. This has been a slow process – one thing that everyone has in common is that they are incredibly busy! – but one that will pay dividends in the long run. Having the support of our local Macmillan Cancer Support Involvement Coordinator has been invaluable for this process, with her local knowledge proving invaluable when it comes to knowing the right person to contact within a given organisation. Hers is also a useful name to drop when trying to arrange a meeting or to speak to someone on the phone – it seems that everyone has great respect for the work Macmillan does across the city and we hope a little of that respect can rub off on us by association. We are pleased that with her help we have been able to set a date for our first Local Cancer Champion Board meeting.
Alongside the work of spreading the word about the project, both to encourage referrals from relevant agencies and to try and recruit members for our Local Cancer Champions Board, we have started to provide advocacy to older people affected by cancer. These have largely come to us through our existing information lines and referral routes from other agencies, but we are now starting to see referrals that are specifically seeking this service. Obviously this is a very encouraging sign so early in the project and we are very lucky to have an experienced and professional paid advocate to take on these cases immediately. We hope that by being responsive to these early referrals and providing a top-quality service to these initial clients we will give our partner organisations confidence to keep identifying us as a much-needed source of support and advocacy for their clients. Even in these early days it is clear the service is much needed with client seeking help with a wide range of issues, from basic information and support through to accompanying people to treatment consultations to help deal with the bewildering array of information being given to them by their consultants.
A three-year project such as this is a marathon rather than a sprint, but the advocacy that has already been done for our clients gives us great hope for the long-term value this work is going to bring to people who really need it.
Ben Sansum, Advocacy Manager, AgeUK Bristol