Self-Advocacy in action
Choices Voices is a fledgling peer advocacy / self-advocacy group, where members are learning about advocacy and developing the knowledge, confidence and skills that will enable them to advocate for themselves.
It meets at Choice in Camborne, Cornwall, a centre where people with a very wide range of learning disabilities and needs are supported to meet friends and take part in activities they choose – from walks or gardening to dance, art and craft, and singing.
So what is self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy is about individuals in a group learning the skills and building the confidence to listen to each other and support each other. To be able to work together through difficult situations or problems, either that the group or one person might be facing, and help each other to decide what options might be next.
Sometimes it might be simply about being there with empathy for someone when they are going through a tough period. Recently, during a session exploring grief, one of the group shared that she had lost a close relative, and others were able to offer their emotional support.
The group can also be a useful space for people to share their frustrations, anger, sadness or happiness, knowing that they won’t be judged when they express how they feel.
Self-advocacy is a way of helping people move forward: group members can draw on the shared experiences of others and get new perspectives on a problem they might otherwise have had to struggle with alone.
When advocate Debbie guides the sessions, first and foremost she wants to make sure that every single person knows they are important and has a voice. Time is spent welcoming everyone and asking them to speak about their day, and positive affirmations made, such as by passing around a mirror and taking turns to say something good about yourself.
“To be good advocates and to be able to support each other, we need to be able to appreciate ourselves,”
“It’s only when you believe in yourself that you can start to have the confidence to speak up for yourself and for others.”
Recent sessions have been based around the Human Rights Act and there’s been discussion about what each of the rights means to people in their real lives. Members of the group have shared their own experiences of when they’ve felt poorly treated or discriminated against – and together with the advocate, they’ve discussed ways they could deal with what has happened.
One of the group participants says: “The sessions Debbie does are very interesting really. I’ve got good friends here and everyone is very supportive.”
We are setting up further self-advocacy groups in Cornwall: one of our most recent is a group for care home staff. These groups can be for absolutely anyone. Our aim is for advocacy skills to be embedded within communities, making a difference to people’s lives and wellbeing right where it matters.
If you’d like to know more and you’d be interesting in joining a self-advocacy group – or if a group you’re involved with would like us to run advocacy awareness sessions for your members, contact email@example.com
The Advocacy People also runs groups for people with learning disabilities in:
This group is called Be Heard and they meet every week.
This group is called It’s My Life and they meet every week.
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
There are four groups called Hear Our Voice and each one meets monthly - meaning that there is a meeting in a different area every week.