Volunteer Advocate – Age UK Gateshead October 2012
After taking my voluntary redundancy and early retirement in March this year from Gateshead Council, having worked for 23 years within both the housing and neighbourhood management teams, I decided that I wanted to do some voluntary work for Age UK, along with some part time work.
This was three-fold:
- as I wanted to thank Age UK for the many years of support that they gave my late Mother Evelyn – as they kept her active in mind, body and spirit;
- I wanted to learn new skills and put my experience and transferrable skils to good use;
- and I wanted to help the aging population of Gateshead to speak up for themselves and receive the services that they deserve.
In April along with other newly recruited volunteers we were given a comprehensive training programme about the role of an advocate which made us all very keen and well equipped to take on any referrals. I was fortunate to plunge straight into an open case which is enabling an elderly lady to stay in her own home while giving her a degree of independence.
Advocacy on the Wards Training
This training and recruitment of volunteers was very timely as Age UK had become one of the pilots for the Silver Dreams Project providing Advocacy on the wards and this subsequently lead us all into even more focussed training.
Step one was to complete an on-line training programme with Macmillon to learn about the cancer journey and the impact of cancer for the sufferer, their families and carers.
Alan re-assured us that it would only take one hour of our time to complete……………….well he was telling porkies, because I nearly missed the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and your know how long that was on. Anyway it was most enjoyable and worthwhile and we received a certificate to prove that we had understood this element of training.
Step two was a joint training session with Alan from Age Uk and Susan Jenkins from Macmillan who gave us an overview of
- the Silver Dreams project,
- the Macmillan framework locally
- more in-depth cancer awareness training
- and how to apply advocacy principles within the Macmillan setting.
Step three is a practical experience as we will be visiting the wards and meeting the Macmillan team and staff at the QE hospital and helping Age Uk to promote Advocacy on the Wards.
(The volunteer Advocates come from all walks of life and have many qualities and skills. Some have experience with cancer either directly or indirectly, and this has meant a lot of brave decisions being made to face these new challenges.)
However I have to say that yet again we are poised and ready equipped for referrals and Age Uk is keeping us up to date with the progress of the project and keeping us involved at every opportunity.
The National Picture
Last week I was fortunate enough to represent the Age Uk’s pilot scheme in London along with other pilots from Stoke on Trent, Sefton and Dorset under the banner of OPAAL. As well as sharing good practices this meeting was to establish the Cancer Champion Board on a national level, agreeing the terms of reference, project plan, evaluation and will ultimately be submitting a bid for a preferred sustainable model of Advocacy on the Wards.
Everyone in London was impressed with the progress of the Age Uk Gateshead’s pilot, especially the training, publicity and promotion of the scheme throughout the professional and volunteer networks.
I am looking forward to continuing and expanding my advocacy role throughout this pilot and would love to see it develop into an additional service in Gateshead to compliment the work done by Macmillan and all our partners and stakeholders.