Today Rhonda Oliver of Cancer, Older People and Advocacy delivery partner Advocacy in Barnet tells us of her newfound understanding of advocacy:
I have to declare straight away that I am new to advocacy. I joined Advocacy in Barnet in May 2016 and since then have had more of a learning roller coaster than a learning curve!
Advocacy – it’s a funny old word and it has become clear that many people, including health professionals, do not really understand what it means. It has a faint whiff of Rumpole of the Bailey – something legal and a bit scary – but of course it is nothing of the sort and that is a big challenge we all face: to communicate better what we do. I guess this was a factor in the advocacy service in Oxfordshire re-branding itself as “Getting Heard”? Is this something we should all be considering I wonder or should we stick to our “advocacy” guns? Getting heard is only part of the advocacy story. At Advocacy in Barnet we say to the people we help “You talk, we listen, life changes” and it is life-changing aspects of our work that I find so inspiring.
The simple definition of advocacy is the act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person, place, or thing. So far so easy, but what I had not realised was that it would encompass so many dark and threatening sides of the human condition. All human behaviour is represented from the highest altruism to the meanest type of exploitation of vulnerable people and downright cruelty.
Some of the cases I have heard about in the last couple of months would make your hair curl – financial abuse, people being excluded from their own homes by greedy relatives, people being abused and bullied or ignored. I had no idea when I joined of the tough cases that would cross our desks.
This why I have developed so much respect and admiration for our volunteer advocates – nothing phases them. They remain professional, competent and non-judgemental at all times. Their steely determination to do the best for the people they help is amazing and nothing seems to deter them from achieving the most positive outcomes.
Volunteer advocates everywhere – I salute you.
Rhonda Oliver, Project Manager, Advocacy in Barnet