Advocacy Musings for May 18
Twelve months on! May Musings.
Unbelievably it is twelve months since we closed the door to the PADA office at 16 Eagle Parade for the last time. It has felt too sensitive to reflect much on PADA during this past year – and after all we are not gone but still struggling along. That’s for another time (the struggling along bit), I think now though I would like to say a few things about Peaks and Dales – or as a friend and erstwhile colleague puts it; “happier times.”
Peaks and Dales Advocacy Forum (as it was originally called) officially started up in late 1988 although I am sure the founding members had been discussing and planning its emergence for many months before that. They comprised of some people professionally engaged in service provision, some family members of people with learning difficulties and some people with their own direct experience of having learning difficulties or other disabilities.
What they all had in common was a recognition that Buxton and the High Peak needed an independent and radical forum at which the need for citizen advocacy could be discussed and from which the practice of it could develop and flourish.
Citizen Advocacy was, I would say, a fairly pure form of advocacy which did not rely on state or local government funding and used entirely trained and voluntary advocates. This model was an essential part of PADA’s first identity. Gradually over the following ten years Peaks and Dales Advocacy Forum mutated into a generic advocacy organisation firmly established in the voluntary sector using a mixture of volunteer and trained advocates.
A lot of other advocacy organisations in the U.K were developing along similar lines and it was alarming to see that some were becoming national giants of advocacy with less and less emphasis on using volunteers and more and more focus on delivering what local authorities wanted them to.
I joined PADA in 2004 as manager and I can honestly say that from that time until this time last year they were the best thirteen years of my working life. I know PADA was not perfect. I certainly know I wasn’t but somehow or other, with an excellent team of unpaid and paid advocates and a superb management committee we kept going as a small(ish), independently-minded, locally based person-centred and ethically driven advocacy provider and flourished with a good reputation for quality, consideration and innovation.
And of course I must mention here the people we provided advocacy to/with; our advocacy partners.
They were indeed our partners. We didn’t provide a service “ for” people in some sort of patronising or superior manner. The way we practised advocacy took on board and reflected the needs and rights of our advocacy partners for status and equality in all matters concerning them. And they in turn supported and appreciated our efforts by helping PADA as volunteers and ambassadors in all sorts of ways.
Well that was a while ago and this is now. Independent Community Advocacy is provided by another organisation in Derbyshire. I know at least two of that organisation’s advocates and know them to be skilled and committed people. I wish them well. I also know that in the High Peak PADA continues to be missed. And not just by me.
Peter Dawson – Advocate/Senior Advocacy Development Worker, Peaks and Dales Advocacy.
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