2nd May 2019

Speaker – Maria Meehan (POhWER – Advocacy Service)

Dick introduced Maria and briefly described how the invitation to visit us came about.  Maria began by describing how People of Herts Want Equal Rights began with a small group, concerned mainly with Learning Difficulty issues, feeling that they had no voice. It has since grown, with external funding including HCC, into the National Charity it is today. It is now the Advocacy Champion helping people speak up for their rights and to feel more confident in so doing.

Maria pointed out that she is not a trained Advocate herself but works closely with them and can give us an overview of their role.  She distributed an easy read fact sheet on Adult Care Services and two other documents About POhWER and a Step by Step Guide to NHS Complaints Advocacy Service.

These documents describe what advocacy is and some of the pertinent facts were highlighted: namely:

  • it is a free service
  • clients will be told about their rights
  • clients will be helped to identify and speak up about what they want.
  • advocates are trained to do the job (all have the National Advocacy Qualification)
  • advocates are independent and tenacious in their approach

Maria then stated that there are advocates attached to Carers in Herts and Herts Independent Living. Others will regularly go to MH facilities like Kingfisher Court where in-patients have the right to speak to them and seek their advice.

Advocates will prepare reports, forward issues of concern for clients, support them before or during meetings. Working on behalf of the Service User, Advocates may sometimes say something that differs from the Carer’s understanding.  It is possible for Carers to have their own Advocates also.

Maria then introduced one way of getting in touch with a qualified advocate would be through Herts Help.  Who will listen, redirect as appropriate and generally navigate the way through the services for clients.

She highlighted an upcoming promotional event “Shout About It” in partnership with the “Sunny Side Rural Trust on the 12th September at 2 Waters Road Hemel Hempstead.  She reported that last year in Stevenage there were some 65 stalls.  She suggested that we might consider having a stall there this year.  Julie N, reported that Mind will have a stall there.


How does one become an advocate?

Maria replied that one might apply for paid employment, or volunteer with them or even become a Trustee (they are currently looking to expand their Trustees)

Are interpreters available?

The answer was yes interpreters can be arranged.  Discussion then included issues about confidentiality which could occur when the interpreter was a family member eg a child interpreting for the mother.

Having your voice heard is the principle for the advocacy service noting however, that lots of referrals do not require advocacy. Some might best be dealt with by a lawyer.

For issues where the client may be dissatisfied with the outcome they can escalate to the Ombudsman.

There is no funding for advocates to help clients with Benefit Reviews. The CAB can give advice but they also are not funded to attend these Reviews, Julie N, said that Mind do see the need for an advocate/mentor to assist carers.

Terry asked – given that most of us carers are also advocates in one way or another for our loved ones, how can we get the skills to become better advocates and perhaps reduce the referrals to the advocacy service? Maria agreed that they have a large number of referrals and agreed that she would consult her advocate colleague (Will Davis) with the possibility of him coming along to help the group with specific advocacy skills.

She asked if the group wanted this sort of training? Terry replied that we have yet to ask the group for their view.  NB. No attempt to describe the possible content or selection criteria of attendees was made.

This prompted Francis to refer to her difficulties with her brother’s PIP appeal and stated that she was out of her depth. Group members mentioned that help could be obtained from the Herts Money Advice Unit and in particular to speak to Gareth Williams who is very helpful. Francis also mentioned speaking to someone called Shirley at Herts Help who promised but had not returned her call.  Marie said that she knew Shirley well and would speak to her.

Angela T, reported that, in her appeal, she got valuable help from her local Rickmansworth CAB.

The group thanked Maria in the usual way.

Agenda items

AttendingDick & Hazel L, Ann R, Angela T, Norma Y, Geraldine M, Tim & Francis W, Carolyn & I G, Zib L, Terry G, Brian L, Observers from Mind (Julie & Elaina).

Apologies – Angela D, Rod C, Carenza W, Kevin M, Diann W, John & Margaret I

Dick reported that Rod was back in hospital.  The group asked Dick to pass on our best wishes to him.

(It was expected that Val from Orchard Care Homes would also attend a little late but she didn’t arrive)

Minutes of last meetingthese were agreed as a true record

Matters arising – there were none

Dick welcomed Angela T to her first meeting and invited her, should she want to, to say a little bit about herself and her caring responsibilities. This she did with a few personal details but focussing primarily on her caring role for her son.

Update of Officers involvement with HPFT and other carer organisations

Anntalked a little about her New Leaf tutoring role and upcoming courses (more next meeting) and then about her role as a Peer Experienced Listener. One project she is to be involved with is “Safeguarding“ on the wards.  She is also running for Vice Chair on the Carer’s Council

Dickreported that he is still involved with the “Spot the Signs” working group and that there will be a formal launch on 9th May and an app is currently being worked on.  Additionally, he reported that he has been asked to represent the Trust on “Suicide” and is currently preparing to speak at a national convention on the matter.

Dick went on to remind the group that he still sits on the Quality & Risk committee but has nothing to report at this time. Also for the HPFT he has been involved with the upcoming carers week “Connecting with Carers”. He too is a candidate for both Chair and Vice Chair of the Carer’s Council.  For Carers In Herts he has carried out a series of interviews and chaired the MH Forum (standing in for Rod)

Terryreported that he too sits on the Carer’s Council and had attended the CIH MH Forum and heard John Murray talk about the new HPFT Crisis Pathway but has not been recently involved with any of the usual working parties due to other commitments.

Upcoming speakers and events

Junewill be the BBQ and it was agreed that we would order a selection of pizzas on the night.  Angela D, and Carolyn G agreed to provide a cake and trifle respectively. Ann R, has agreed to talk to the group about the New Leaf College.

July – will be our day trip and Hazel and Dick are currently looking into organising a visit to Bletchley Park and will visit soon to check the details about a group booking and available guided tours.  Those present were generally in favour.  However, if the group had any alternative suggestions to make they too would be checked out at this early stage.

August – is the month that we don’t meet

September – Dick reported that he is hoping to get either

  • Sandra Brooks (Jess Lievesley’s replacement)
  • John Murray The Crisis Team Manager to talk about the new Crisis Pathway
  • Jo Edwards (John Lavelle’s replacement) possibly to talk about the roll out and launch of the “GP Services Project” designed to reduce unnecessary referrals to the Trust. Julie reported that Mind were also involved with this project

Any Other Business

Francis reported that no additional work on the Poster and leaflet has been carried out due to other commitments (mainly trying to address a (PIP) appeal on behalf of her brother).

Date of next meeting –6th June 2019 – our BBQ