#CeartasDiaries is an insight into independent advocacy and the activities we run at Ceartas.
Today our CEO, Gordon Thomson talks Ceartas, our ongoing campaign championing independent advocacy and ensuring we reach those who need it, and the challenges brought on by COVID19.
Contact us on 0141 775 0433 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our support throughout East Dunbartonshire.
For a person who is known to panic in the shallow end in the swimming pool, to use a water analogy is surprising but these are unusual times. For a manager of a small local advocacy charity, the challenges have been coming wave after wave in recent times but at first, the primary focus was quite rightly on people.
The poem which coined the phrase “same storm different boats” rang true and continues to permeate as some individuals experience new systems, life on benefits and all the while being unable to go about their normal daily lives. The initial focus for us was working in partnership with other local charities to ensure people in our communities were assisted to receive essential shopping, medicine and food deliveries.
It was critical to ensure the team were in contact with one another. Initially this was dealing with the multitudes of ways to keep in touch with one another, social media packages more familiar for sharing memes or catching up with friends were now the lifeblood of the organisation. Then new packages were discovered and more learning enabled systems with a more professional feel were to become the new norm. That however was the back room stuff but it was critical to keep things afloat and ensure that we could help where and when required. The primary concern for staff continued to be how we would maintain contact with the people who rely on our services and keep them safe while making the service available to others.
The next wave came in maintaining advocacy support for individuals and increasing accessibility. Presence and profile were essential. Not for vanity or self-promotion or in some competition for the best tweet or post but the reality was that people still needed their voice heard. The invisible risked being more adrift.
To not fight at this time for independent advocacy would be condoning the approach of individuals even prior to Covid19, who viewed advocacy as optional extra rather than a right. Advocacy was not a luxury to dispense with neither was it irrelevant. There has been a fashion of late where advocacy is found within a menu of services in many information and support agencies. Independent advocacy is not something that anyone can just do or deliver with no training or support. Nor is it right for advocacy to be placed in competition with the many other priorities of these organisations. The pandemic has demonstrated that dedicated independent advocacy providers who have had the ability to be solely focused on speaking up for people and defending their human rights each day is essential so that the most vulnerable in our communities are not further marginalized and disconnected but are treated equally, fairly and justly.
“Same storm different boats” not all people are IT literate or even have access to smartphones or broadband. Our methods may have changed but we will continue to meet our objective of being alongside people, speaking up for individuals and groups while continually connecting with people to create real change in their lives. Technology and innovation by our staff have allowed for opportunities to be alongside individuals. Creativity is to the fore but challenges remain to ensure people can access independent advocacy when they require it and access is not restricted.
The next wave for the manager is now about considering and managing the changes to service that will be required ie how we learn from what has happened, how we deliver our services, what we can deliver and where we deliver it. These are all questions that need to be answered as we prepare for what is to come. Gladly the Ceartas crew- board, volunteers and staff are in the same boat determined and working together to ensure the people we work with are safe during the storms that they face and the storms to come.