Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Getting things done – Self-advocacy and Gypsies & Travellers

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  July 6, 2015 |

Self-advocacy and Gypsies and TravellersGATE helps people to help themselves.  That has always been one of our key values, though often easier to support in theory than apply in practice, particularly in relation to advocacy.  The temptation, or perhaps pressure, is to simply complete the task at hand.  Too often that means both advocate and member alike focus on completion of a single task, at the expense of building up longer term self-advocacy skills.  It is therefore so positive to see many examples recently that this is not always the case.

We have at GATE been seeing a number of instances of members doing things for themselves, with or without our prior support.

This has ranged from someone going right ahead and resolving something entirely, to having a good go at getting as far as they can before asking help.  Good examples recently have been passport applications and Carers forms which the members completed themselves and only wanted GATE to check everything was okay.  Similarly, on speaking to others who had previously asked for support, such as with jobsearches or reporting housing repairs, some noted that they felt confident to proceed on their own and would only need to call if they got stuck.

Wherever this has come from, clearly a number of members have developed the confidence and skills to do more and more self-advocacy.  I would like to think that some of what we are seeing has been through our approach to advocacy which, when time allows, provides an opportunity to build up these skills.  More broadly I would suggest that our whole push towards Asset Based Community Development and a wider understanding of this has helped members realise that they, or people they know, have the capability to do so much.  That is what needs to be built on; sharing the skills already within the community to reduce dependency and increase our collective capacity.

We must accept that there will always be a demand for advocacy services.  We are therefore so pleased that it exists, is valued by our members and independently assessed to be of a very high standard.  Equally though, we must recognise that many members are able to resolve a number of issues, or at least part of these, and that through constructive encouragement more people will be able to do more.  That is important from a practical point of view regarding capacity, where our advocacy service can then focus on the most vulnerable.  It also helps fulfil that key value commitment to self-advocacy, for all the value of independence, autonomy and self-worth that provides.

Recent progress is largely anecdotal and hard to quantify exactly.  Indeed by definition we do not see much of the improved self-advocacy if someone has not required GATE’s input.  We must be encouraged by what we see though and work to see more of this.

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