Judith Davey, chief executive at The Advocacy Project, shares insights about advocacy and Covid-19.
Whilst we might all have experienced the same storm during the pandemic, we certainly haven’t all been in the same boat. Those who are the most vulnerable, those who were locked in poverty and injustice before lockdown have often been hit the hardest.
As advocates, during the pandemic we’ve left no stone unturned in helping people to speak up and make meaningful choices about what happens in their lives, but we’ve seen many situations where vulnerable people’s rights have not been respected or upheld.
The personal reality of indignity
Tom, one of the people we work with, lives in a care home. Due to staff shortages he was not just confined to his room, but was confined to bed with the bed rails up. He couldn’t even get out of bed to go to the loo. You can imagine. It was undignified and unnecessarily restrictive.
Speaking out about what we’ve seen
Advocacy organisations across the UK decided to carry out some research and paint a picture of what we’ve seen. The results of this national survey are important – we must use this information to address the issues in the health and social care system to improve things for the most vulnerable people during the second wave.
When ‘protections’ didn’t protect people
So what did we discover in the survey? The pandemic has highlighted the inadequacy of measures meant to protect the liberty and human rights of thousands of people. 76% advocates saw cases where people’s human rights were not upheld between March and May this year. We can talk about the statistics in the report – statistics like one third of advocates saw unlawful ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ orders applied to whole groups of people in care homes. But I prefer to talk about the human consequences.
People like Tom confined to bed as I’ve just described. People like Sonya – someone with learning disabilities and underlying health conditions who did not understand the information she was getting about what coronavirus is and how to stay safe. There was no-one to explain to her what the government guidance meant in the context of her every day life. She stopped going to all her health appointments. It resulted in her taking actions that increased rather than decreased her risk.
What now, as the second wave approaches
The second wave is with us, and now is the time to learn the lessons across the whole health and social care system so that people’s experiences and outcomes are better this time.
The survey report outlines recommendations to prevent a repeat of the injustices we witnessed during the first wave. It is accompanied by advocacy principles, which outline the advocacy sector’s approach to protecting people’s rights at this unprecedented time.
Crucially, people’s right to advocacy is unchanged. This means many people have a right to an advocate to support them to ensure their rights are respected, wishes understood, and needs are met.
The role of safeguarding at this critical time
As The Advocacy Project, we are putting a focus on keeping people safe, including through safeguarding processes. We have launched a number of programmes to build the capacity of people and communities to keep themselves and others safe – peer safeguarding champions for example. We’re also looking into the changing nature of abuse, given so much more of our lives is confined within our homes and face-to-face contact has decreased and is likely to stay that way for at least the medium term.
What you can do
So our ask of you is – please stand with the advocacy sector and the people we support. Let’s work together to put in place solutions that make it better for those who are most disadvantaged. Download the survey report. Make sure the people you work with, and the people you know, have the advocacy they are entitled to at this time. Voice rights and choice.