Help to stand up for your rights

rainee advocates (left to right) Mike Battle, Joanne Mason and Julie Kadhim and (below) the woman behind the scheme Mary Diver
rainee advocates (left to right) Mike Battle, Joanne Mason and Julie Kadhim and (below) the woman behind the scheme Mary Diver

PEOPLE will be able to have more of a voice in everyday matters that affect their rights after funding was secured to provide training in advocacy.

The Hartlepool-based Generic Advocacy Training And Consultation Service Community Interest Company (GATACS CIC), has been awarded £2,500 from the Community First Community Development Government Foundation.

Mary Diver.

Mary Diver.

The money is being used to train six people in advocacy so that they can help residents in the Stranton area of Hartlepool and there are plans to roll out the service across town.

Being an advocate means they can speak up on behalf of other people to secure rights, meet needs and support people in making informed choices, whether it is a legal issue, benefits advice or any other issue involving authority.

Once the trainee advocates have completed the programme, they will offer their services for free.

They are undertaking 20 hours of listening, communication, interview, research, intervention, management, assertiveness and empowerment skills, as well as law and litigation.

Mary Diver, who has been running GATACS for four years, with the last year and a half spent as a community interest company, said: “The learners are absolutely fantastic and the best thing about this is all of them are willing to act as volunteer advocates once they have completed their training.

“My dream is to make it available for everyone town-wide.”

Mary, who lives in the Stranton area and has been an advocate for 14 years, gave an examples of people needing advocacy, including parents needing help to confront health providers about the care of their child, or unpaid carers who feel they may be taken advantage of.

She added that people may also use the service if they have employment issues.

But she stressed that it is the person themselves who make the ultimate decision, not the advocate.

Mary thanked Stranton Primary School, which has offered the school’s Stranton Centre as a place for the advocates to interview clients.

The trainees come from various backgrounds including student social workers, a voluntary MIND worker, a Belle Vue Community Centre worker and an Epilepsy Outlook volunteer.

For more information, visit www.advocacy-training.co.uk