SIAA Independent Advocacy Awareness Week 2023: Aileen and Jennifer in conversation28 April, 2023
Your new role? Information Development Worker at Ceartas23 June, 2023
May 28th 2002 was the day I began my journey with Ceartas and so I guess that means I am 21…doesn’t it? It was the Tuesday after the bank holiday weekend and a few things were going on that day:
- NHL Eastern Conference Final: Carolina Hurricanes beat Toronto Maple Leafs, 4 games to 2
- Eminem was No.1 in the UK charts with Without Me
- Eminem also released his album The Eminem Show.
- Tony Blair was the UK Prime Minister and George W. Bush Jnr. was the President of the United States
- The Nokia 3310 was one of the most popular mobile phones on the market
- Internet speeds were increasing and MP3 sharing was beginning to threaten the existence of music stores. People were using a software program called LimeWire to share music, software, and videos.
Twenty one years ago, I stepped through the office door in Southbank House to start a brand new shiny job as an advocacy worker. I was terrified! But back then we weren’t known as Ceartas, we were part of Alzheimer Scotland and the service was called “Alzheimer Scotland, Action on Dementia, Strathkelvin and North East Glasgow, Advocacy Service – imagine that mouthful when answering the phone.
When I started with the organisation, it was only myself, Gordon Thomson, the project coordinator, an admin worker and a volunteer coordinator. I didn’t have my own computer, the internet was still on dial up and I had to hand write all of my own case notes. When going out on visits my sat nav consisted of a folded down atlas and we still hand wrote our presentations on acetate to use on overhead projectors!
I hit the ground running and my terror turned to enthusiasm and passion for the role. I soon found myself getting to grips with casework, legislation and getting to know the local health and social care services and I knew, even way back then, I’d found my passion and that was ensuring that the voices of those who were least heard were at the centre of discussions and decisions.
In 2004 life was about to change for the service, with Independent Advocacy now a legal right under Scottish mental health legislation, advocacy providers had to be independent from service providers and so we began our journey to independence from Alzheimer Scotland and in Dec 2004, Ceartas was formally launched in the old Tom Johnston Building in Kirkintilloch.
When our admin worker left, Patricia Ovens, joined us, just to help out for a couple of weeks, that was back in 2005 and she is still here! Funding for our Volunteer Project came to an end at the same time we secured some funding to establish an information service.
Completing my Post Grad in Dementia Studies inspired me to look at ways in which we could support people to stay connected with our service as well as with others in similar circumstances and so De Café was born in Sept 2005 and became the driving force behind our routes into Advocacy approach where we aim to create opportunities for people to stay connected and make positive changes in their lives.
We also moved offices, this year, to Townhead, across from Ghiloni’s – a little too handy for morning breakfast rolls!
In 2008 Ceartas were awarded the contract to provide Independent Advocacy for adults aged 16+ in East Dunbartonshire which saw our team expand quite rapidly. It was soon time for another move to our current location in McGregor House, Kirkintilloch.
As well as one to one advocacy and De Café, over the next few years the service continued to grow and develop using everything from photography, sports, arts and even creative writing to engage people with the service and help them connect with their peers and communities.
2020 saw Covid and some massive changes in the way we delivered our service, it was all very new and different to everyone but the team embraced the challenge and were soon finding new and creative ways to stay connected with people and ensure that their voice remained at the heart of all discussions and decisions affecting their lives.
And here we are in 2023; in Ceartas years I’ve reached the grand old age of 21, as an advocacy worker, senior advocacy worker, service manager to Chief Officer, it has been a humbling and inspiring journey. I’m grateful to all the support I’ve received over the years from colleagues both past and present, trustees, volunteers and partner agencies and I’m proud of everything the organisation has achieved in the last 21 years and beyond. But most of all I am grateful to the people who use our service, who champion our service and who inspire our team to keep on delivering the best independent advocacy they can every single day.