Parent Action Empowering Parents as Advocates for their Children
Parent Action Empowering Parents as Advocates for their Children - Project
Parent Action is a Community Interest Company, based in Downpatrick. It is a parent-led organisation which supports the parents of children, young people and adults with disabilities or long-term health conditions to speak up for their family member’s needs.
They are using their £9,665 National Lottery Awards for All grant to train five parents and one young person to Level 3 Certificate in Independent Advocacy for Adults. The qualification allows learners to develop new skills in a range of practical advocacy techniques, so they are well equipped to support the people they work with. It also provides learners with a thorough understanding of the role of advocacy and how it can improve people’s lives.
How are they People Led?
The idea originated from parents’ comments. They told Parent Action the only way they could share their experiences and opinions on public services was via a complaints process.
The project allows people whose voice was previously unheard to be represented so that their needs can be addressed, while increasing confidence, resilience, employability and personal development while reducing the social isolation of them and their children.
Parent Action spoke at length with parents and noted a clear desire for an independent advocacy process, allowing them to act as a voice for their children, who have communication difficulties and developmental delay.
Five parents and one young person received training to give them the skills they need to advocate on behalf of their family needs and contribute positively to discussions around public services.
Advocates will be able to engage meaningfully and effectively with public services which directly impact the lives of their family members.
This project supports parents to become advocates to ensure public services such as health, education and social care best meet the needs of their families.
The six Independent Family Advocates who availed of the training brought years of personal experience in caring for their children and had a full knowledge of the barriers these children face to full inclusion in their communities.
Parent Action supports them to build on their existing skills and develop new abilities which will help them to provide a voice to support other families facing the same barriers.
Orla Watt, Independent Family Advocacy Co-ordinator, said:
“Families can become socially isolated when a family member has a disability or long-term health condition.
“They need skills and confidence to empower them to take the lead. Over the past four years we have been working on a model to put people in the lead. We use a co-production method to get people involved.
“We get parents together in small groups of 4-5 people and then use tools to get them talking about what is important to them; then we pull out all the similarities and build up the bigger picture to give it a collective voice.
“It can take 6 months lead in time, maybe more. In those small groups it is necessary to build relationships and trust, because you are working with people’s values and beliefs.
“Within this process parents are supporting each other and developing participation skills. We encourage parents to co-facilitate and then become a facilitator for others. The results bring us to the next stage – coming up with an action plan.
“From this process, we realised that parents wanted to know more about their rights, particularly under the conventions on human rights and the rights of the child and to become advocates for those rights – so that family members could access the services they need in everyday life. Six people will receive Independent Advocacy for Adults training.
“There has been a ripple effect, the process is growing and although we are based in the Newry, Mourne and Down council area we are beginning to make connections with families in other areas of Northern Ireland too.”