About Dudley Advocacy
Our mission statement
"Dudley Advocacy is an independent service which supports people to: be empowered, be listened to, oppose discrimination, uphold their human rights and express their views.
Dudley Advocacy is user led and puts the individual at the centre of any decisions made."
Dudley Advocacy began life in 1995 and became a registered charity in 1998 and a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2005. We began by working with volunteers who were recruited, trained and matched with people with a learning disability to act as a citizen advocate.
Citizen advocates supported people with a learning disability to speak up for themselves and have a say in the way they lived their lives because all too often, they were told what to do, where to live, etc., under the guise of ‘it’s for your own good’.
We realised very quickly that because many people with a learning disability had been living without being offered any choices in their lives, it was difficult for them to suddenly be asked ‘what do you want?’
It was great that many volunteers were ready to work with them to empower them and ensure that they had choices and could take control of their lives but it was also very frightening for people who had never been offered a choice in many areas of their lives before. After all, lots of us struggle with making decisions in life, let alone the right ones.
Fortunately, as always, Dudley Advocacy volunteers were skilled, empathetic and totally committed to helping people look at their options, work out what it is they want and make decisions, sometimes life changing decisions. Our volunteers ensured that the advocacy they provided was always user led and independent.
Our volunteer citizen advocates were supporting people long before advocacy became a legal requirement for some people.
One of our first staff advocacy posts was to work with people at Ridge Hill, a long stay hospital which was closing. People who were moving from there had complex difficulties and had lived there for many years. Our support ensured that the transition to supported living kept the person at the heart of decisions that were made using person centred planning.
Also, in those early days, we also facilitated a Mental Health Involvement Project working with people who were experiencing mental health issues. This included our 1 in 4 project (named by a service user as statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health difficulties at some time in their lives). We also supported a Patients Council for a number of years before enabling them to become an independent, user led service in their own right.
At that point in 2005, we decided to concentrate on providing advocacy as legislation brought the Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) followed swiftly by Independent Mental Health Advocacy, (IMHA), NHS Advocacy, DoLS and in 2014, Care Act Advocacy. We took part in consultations, forum groups and planning sessions locally, regionally and nationally for this statutory advocacy to become a reality.
Although statutory advocacy was a step forward and recognised the need for advocacy for certain groups of people, we knew and still know that there will always be people who ‘slip through the net’ and because of this, over the years, we have always secured various types of independent non-statutory funding to provide advocacy for people with a learning disability from Black and Asian minorities, informal mental health advocacy, parents with a learning disability and also volunteer citizen advocacy. We continue to secure independent funding to bridge these gaps for people who do not meet the criteria for statutory advocacy.
We pride ourselves on retaining our independence and our unique style of working with people who need advocacy. We were proud to gain recognition for our work when we were awarded the Quality Performance Mark for Advocacy in 2017. Our staff have developed as advocacy has developed and our team are fully trained and are seen as professionals and respected by the health and social care professionals they work with when advocating for people.
Since 2022 we have changed our services and no longer provide statutory advocacy, we focus on supporting people with complex difficulties within the Dudley borough. We continue to offer independently funded non-statutory advocacy to people and will continue to work with volunteers to support people who need help.
After all, without the support of volunteer advocates, Dudley Advocacy would not have become the respected and valued organisation it still is today.