Here are some great examples of the many changes that have happened for people with an intellectual disability, when their voluntary advocate is active in their life.
The stories come from the program but their names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Jenny knows little about freely given relationships. She has made friends with the people she lives and works with, but doesn’t have a meaningful relationship with people in her community. She has spent her entire life in care of human service workers, who have to it that she is housed, clothed and fed. They have provided her with programs and activities to fill her days and at times she has formed close relationships with some of the workers. Her advocate Clare lives a ten minute walk from her place and comes to visit just her, to have a cuppa or to invite Jenny out. Clare invites Jenny over for dinner or lunch at her home. Together, they go out shopping for those special things you need to choose carefully. Clare takes an interest in the things Jenny does in her life and is a friend who will ask her, “What would you like to do?”. Jenny doesn’t have to share Clare with the other residents and she can feel proud knowing that her friend (advocate), has come especially to see her.
Joe lived in CRU and had no access to the wider community or to pursue individual interests. Janet organized for Joe to be enrolled in a literacy class at a neighborhood house. Being able to attend this class with Janet’s support, was the first step of his move in to the community from the restricted setting he had lived in for years.
Karen was able to help Rod, Jane and their children move within the public housing system, from a small flat to three-bedroom house with a big garden. Rod and Jane’s old neighbours had taken advantage of them and smothered them, so the situation was very a difficult one. Since Karen was able to quickly collect all the appropriate documentation to get priority housing, Rod, Jane and their children moved less than six months after the process was put into place, rather than the usual 7 year wait.
Gina lives in a private rental locally and is a great mother who has raised a beautiful daughter. Gina now has a citizen advocate who sees things from her perspective and has made some discoveries that have unfortunately highlighted many issues. Gina’s housing agent had ignored multiple reasonable requests to have serious property concerns addressed for months such as no smoke alarm, broken fans, broken heating, broken gates and fences. Gina’s citizen advocate stepped in and contacted the agent together with Gina and the problems were immediately addressed. It was then discovered Gina had been sleeping on protruding wire springs due to the inaction of previous workers and services. A new bed was immediately arranged through a charitable organisation and Gina’s daily physical pain has reduced dramatically and home care services have been contacted to assist with cleaning due to the physical barriers. When Gina moved to this new home she never left the house due to anxiety as the area was unfamiliar and past social and community networks were lost due to transportation issues, now Gina has slowly been connected to local places and frequents places of interest with her advocate. Now Gina frequents her local community independently, her anxiety has decreased, and she is feeling value from being a part of the community. Gina has chosen not to have paid support workers in her life as she now has inclusive pathways that were previously absent. This very recent NECA program story is NOT just about fixing what was broken. It is about increasing natural supports and connections, adopting realistic and sustainable valued roles, empowerment and learning strategies for effective self-advocacy through her citizen advocate. This is real inclusion, this is a real grassroots community response, this cannot be bought, and this cannot be sold.
Frank lives in supported accommodation and he is well cared for on a day to day basis. His advocate Simon visits him regularly and makes sure that Frank has his needs met. Simon was very concerned when Frank was not receiving proper dental care. After some research, Simon found an appropriate Dental Clinic for Frank to go to and have regular check ups at.
Lena has many carers and family involved, but they are all 20+ years older that her. She is extending her social circle through her new friend (advocate), Emily. Emily takes Lena to places where they both meet people their own age. Emily and her Uni friends take Lena to the MCG to see her favourite footy team play. Together they overcome the difficulties of getting her manual wheelchair in to a good spot where Lena can watch the game amongst her peers.
This is just a small snippet of what Citizen Advocacy achieves, please share with us your experiences and stories……