Advancing the case for independent advocacy

Kath Parson is Chief Executive of the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance. (486 words)

Here at the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL) we’re focused on getting word out about the benefits of independent advocacy. Advocacy supports and enables people who have difficulty representing their interests, to exercise their rights, express their views, explore and make informed choices. We have lots of great data from our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy programme and other project work as well as from our members about the positive impact advocacy has on older people’s lives.

We use our position as the only UK based national organisation supporting independent advocacy services for older people to influence service design, delivery and provision and to raise advocacy’s profile.

Over recent months we’ve worked hard to mainstream interest in advocacy. As a result we were finalists in the 2017 UK Blog Awards in the Health and Social Care category, we’ve been shortlisted for the 2017 National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards in the Older People’s Mental Health and Dementia category and we’ve also been shortlisted and will soon face the judges in the 2017 HSJ Awards in the Supported Self Care category. All of this raises awareness of advocacy and engenders questions on what it’s all about. It also educates people into requesting advocacy provision in their local communities.

We’ve also spent lots of time both influencing and responding to national consultations where the provision of independent advocacy services would benefit older people. We

  • worked with Macmillan Cancer Support, People Powered Medicine and EY (formerly Ernst & Young) on a key social and financial return on investment report showing that £6.70 is returned for every £1 invested in cancer advocacy services
  • have been a key member of 7 independent advisory boards, contributing to national and international decision-making
  • commented on 12 national consultations including successfully making the case for the inclusion of independent advocacy support in NICE Quality Standard on multimorbidity (QS 153).

We’ve used social media to reach a wider audience, promoting the hashtag #advocacyworks on Twitter and showcasing our films which amplify the voices of older people into health and care settings. Our older people’s cancer voices films pack a powerful punch. Mike talks about the impact of his cancer diagnosis, how his life was taken over by the thought of cancer and how things changed for him when he was introduced to Bob, his volunteer peer advocate.  Rosie and her advocate Linda talk about the cancer advocacy journey they have both been on. Visiting Fairspear burial ground was the final item on Rosie’s advocacy action list, in her film we make this journey with Rosie and Linda, visiting the plot and exploring what happens next.

Independent advocacy needs to be freely available to any older person who needs it. At present it isn’t. When older people share their stories of despair with us and how things turned around when they met their advocate it drives us on because #advocacyworks.

Kath Parson is Chief Executive of the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance.