We are all spending lots of our time trying to influence the Social Care Green Paper and stakeholders from every part of the system are desperately trying to ensure that their needs will be enshrined in the blueprint for the future.
This is an important moment for social care, in that it requires us all to come together with a clear vision and to ensure that this vision is centred in the needs and rights of the people who use services. To this extent, we are all advocating for a new vision for 21st-century care and for a system that responds to the needs of citizens, rather than expecting them to fit into a less than perfect and very fragmented set of services.
This role and in advocating a vision for social care needs to be accompanied by a similar advocacy role which is focused on the needs of the individual. We often talk about people who need social care and being vulnerable and unable to get the best possible services, so they need advocates to ensure that their rights and needs receive appropriate attention. Of course, on one level this is true and when you are in need of social care services you are sometimes in a crisis and need support. However, I also want to remind everyone, that throughout our lives, whoever we are, and in whatever situation we find ourselves, we turn to others to advocate for us and fulfil our needs. I think it is important to remember this because we need to recognise that people with health and social care needs are still citizens and should be regarded with the same respect.
Nobody stigmatises me because I cannot understand the workings of my car or when it needs servicing. I turn to somebody who has specialist knowledge and who can mend it quickly and effectively. Nobody stigmatises people who have to bring in advocacy and support to write their tax return or argue their case in court when the dispute arises, and yet, we often think differently of people who need advocacy to ensure that they get the support they are entitled to from the health and social care system.
Advocacy is so important because not only does it give an opportunity for people to get what they are entitled to, but it also really underlines the systemic short coming of the system and can put pressure on politicians to solve the problem for everyone by policy changes.
Whatever type of advocacy whether person or policy related, it really does make a difference to both individuals and to the system. Many of the achievements that have been made that have been ground breaking and pushed the agendas forward have been at the instigation of great advocacy organisations in the voluntary sector, who have fought for particular client groups and insured that society treats them with dignity and respect and changes laws and practice so that people are supported to live well.
There are also countless examples where individuals who have been touched by an injustice or tragedy, have fought to change the system and striven for justice at great personal and emotional cost. This month, with the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, we are reminded of this sacrifice and what can be achieved. Stephen’s parents have never given up fighting for justice and trying to ensure that no one else has to suffer the loss and heart ache they endured. Doreen and Neville Lawrence personify the best values of advocacy and are an example of what it can achieve.