Welcome to our new interim CEO

Rebecca Barr

Rebecca has come to AdvoCard after a long career in social care in both the third and statutory sectors. She will be working with us on an interim basis to help steer the organisation through the many changes that this “new normal” brings. Over the next few months Rebecca will be looking at ways that we can improve the service that we offer and will be providing support and guidance to staff as we adjust to a new model of working.

She says “I am delighted to be joining AdvoCard as interim CEO and look forward to meeting as many people as possible over the next few weeks as I learn more about the great advocacy services provided. This continues to be a difficult period as Covid restrictions remain in place but I know how committed our staff are to doing their very best for everyone who needs them.

Rebecca is supported by our two Advocacy Managers Ben Baldock, who manages the hospital based and prison advocacy teams, and Arlene Astley, who manages the community advocacy teams. Ben and Arlene came into post in June and together manage the day to day operations of AdvoCard.

Mind Our Rights Report now Live.

The Mind Our Rights! event was devised in the context of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, which had a focus on Body Image, Human Rights, and Mental Health. The aim of the event was to bring 50 service users, survivors and people with lived experience and mental health professionals from various fields to come together to discuss human rights and key issues relating to mental health, physical health and body image.

The Scottish Government has stated that Human Rights are fundamental to the principles of mental health care and treatment; it is the role of mental health advocacy to support people with mental health issues to access their Human Rights and advocate for these rights to be met effectively and appropriately by national and local government and the services they fund.

Mental health advocacy groups in Edinburgh and Lothian have become increasingly aware through their work with patients, people supported by services and people with lived experience – our advocacy partners – that there is an ever-increasing gap between national/local government policy, strategy and the declared positive intentions of providers and the experience of people with mental health conditions/issues.  Our advocacy partners are calling for

  • the delivery of a genuine, consistent and coherent human rights approach within both statutory and third sector mental health service provision – this is currently failing.
  • greater and more secure funding for support services for people with mental health issues that are provided by small, local third sector organisations and grassroots projects; these are currently under threat from shrinking local authority budgets combined with integrated joint board efficiency improvement measures and strategies
  • Human Rights as set out in the UNCRPD must be realised for all people with mental health issues 

Report by Patricia Anne Rodger | Community Collective Advocacy Development Worker at AdvoCard with support from Anne O’Donnell of LEARN/CAPS Independent Advocacy and Simon Porter of REH Patients Council and our advocacy partners

Problematic Substance Use Collective Advocacy

AdvoCard facilitates a collective advocacy group for those with lived experience of problematic substance use (alcohol and drugs).  Being part of a peer-support, collective advocacy group is about sharing lived experiences, finding common issues and raising a louder voice together.  A collective voice can be stronger for campaigning and letting service providers and policy makers know what positive changes can be made.  And you could help make the journey better for everyone.

Our first meeting is on Tuesday, 31st March, 2020, 2 to 4pm, AdvoCard, 332 Leith Walk, EH6 5BR.

A date for the first meeting will be put in place over the next while.  Please contact John Muirhead, Collective Advocacy Development Worker, if you’d like to know more – [email protected] 07884 741 686

Community Collective Advocacy: February Newsletter

This month:

  • Edinburgh Community Voices – Wednesday 5th February
  • Side Effects Conversations: Save the date – Wednesday 18th March 
  • Opportunity to influence iThrive Edinburgh
  • New Collective Advocacy Group
  • A&E | All & Equal – Emergency Card

Edinburgh Community Voices:  Wednesday 5th February

The next Edinburgh Community Voices meeting is on Wednesday 5th February, 2 – 4pm at AdvoCard, 332 Leith Walk.  Tea, coffee and biscuits are provided.
Edinburgh Community Voices is an open meeting for anyone who has lived experience to come along and discuss mental health and services in Edinburgh.  
We’d love more people to come along, especially new people who haven’t been before.  Everyone’s view is valid, you will be listened to and you could help someone in the future.
At the last meeting we discussed:

  • Side effects of mental health medication and the upcoming Side Effects Conversations meetings  
  • Issue of difficulties getting home at night from the Emergency Department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh when Night Buses don’t take disabled or 60+ bus passes
  • How we can get more people involved in Edinburgh Community Voices

What we discuss at the February meeting is up to you.  
Tea, coffee and biscuits are provided.  If you’ve not been before and would like to find out more, you can give us a ring on 0131 554 5307 or email [email protected].      

Side Effects Conversations: Save the date – Wednesday 18th March
This is the first Side Effects Conversations meeting, which we had to rearrange from last year.  
The meeting will be on the afternoon of  Wednesday 18th March.  We’re still finalising the details and will announce them online (on our website (www.advocard.org.uk), facebook and twitter), and in the next newsletter which will be going out in mid to late February.  
If you would like to register interest or be kept updated, please contact Becky – [email protected], 0131 554 5307.  

We may be planning future meetings for people who’re not able to make the meeting on 18th March.  If you’re not able to make this meeting but would be interested in coming to a meeting at another time, please get in touch.  

Towards the end of 2018, Edinburgh Community Voices carried out some peer research to hear from people about their experiences of side effects of mental health medication and treatment and support for physical health issues.

We carried out this peer research to hear from people about their experiences, to get these down on paper, to identify any common issues, and to hear from them about what they think needs to be done to address the issues raised.

We published the reports from the peer research in the summer.

You can read the reports, and find out more, here:

Experiences of Side Effects of  Mental Health Medication:

Experiences of Treatment and Support for Physical Health Issues:

iThrive Edinburgh

You might be interested in this opportunity from Health in Mind to shape the new iThrive Edinburgh Website:


Health in Mind has been funded by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to create iThrive Edinburgh – an up-to-date, user-friendly, single point of access self-management and wellbeing website.

It will directly support the new Edinburgh Thrive welcome team and network, and the delivery of the Thrive Edinburgh mental health integration strategy/commissioning plan.

The iThrive Edinburgh website will provide information about local mental health and wellbeing services, Thrive information and self-help materials.

Julie Huggan, Health in Mind’s Online Information Development Worker, will be setting up a co-production working group to ensure that community members and experts by experience will have a lead role in shaping all aspects of iThrive Edinburgh design and content.

To learn more, please get in touch by emailing Julie – [email protected] 

As part of the iThrive Edinburgh’s development, we would love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Please fill in our online survey by clicking the link below.


New Collective Advocacy Group 
** We had some interest in this group earlier in 2019.  We still plan to set it up but haven’t been able to do anything yet due to staff illness. If you’re interested or have ideas please do get in touch and we’ll post updates when we have them.**
Do you take part in a planning group (of any kind), steering group, management committee or board, or have you taken part in a group like this in the past? Would you be interested in joining a collective advocacy group to talk about your experiences and discuss how groups like these can better involve people with lived experience of mental health issues?

We haven’t yet decided on a meeting day, time or location.

We know it may be difficult for some people to come to a new group, so we would look to find ways to involve anyone who is not able to make it to meetings, for instance getting your views by email or over the phone.
If you are interested, or to find out more, please contact Becky –  0131 554 5307, [email protected]

A&E | All & Equal – Emergency Card

Would you like to have an Emergency Card?

An Emergency Card can help you get across your needs and wishes to the nurses, doctors and other staff if you ever need to go to the Emergency Department (A&E).

On the card there is space for you to write three things that you would want staff to know and three things that matter to you about your care. You can fill in the card by yourself or with help from somebody else. It can be folded to credit card size so that it can fit in your wallet and be there if you need to use it.

The Emergency Card was created for people with lived experience of mental health issues. However, it doesn’t say anything about mental health on it, you don’t have to write anything about your mental health on it and anyone can use it.

We have put together some guidance to help you decide if you would like to have an Emergency Card and to give you some ideas for things to include. If you would like an Emergency Card and a copy of the guidance, or have any questions, please contact Becky –   0131 554 5307, [email protected]

Background to the Emergency Card

In 2015 – 2016 we ran a peer research project called A&E | All & Equal where we heard from people with lived experience of mental health issues about experiences they had had at the Emergency Departments at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) and St John’s Hospital, Livingston. One of the issues that came up was that when you’re in distress or are feeling anxious, it can be difficult to communicate with the staff in the Emergency Department, for instance if you have any wishes, needs or other information that you want staff to listen to and take into account. We developed the Emergency Card together with people with lived experience of mental health issues, the Emergency Department (A&E) at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Navigator Project. 

Board Director Opportunity


About us
AdvoCard is a well-established independent advocacy charity primarily serving people with experience of mental ill health in Edinburgh. We provide opportunities for people at risk of marginalization and exclusion to participate more effectively in decisions that affect all aspects of their lives, through individual and collective advocacy.

Our activities focus on people who use mental health services in the community and in hospital, people who are in prison, and people with problematic substance misuse. Last year through our staff and volunteers we provided advocacy for 976 individuals, and as the need and demand grows so our services are developing. We have recently extended our service to work in the prison and have developed a specific service to respond to welfare reform.

About the role
Board members provide strategic support and guidance for our ongoing development, ensuring AdvoCard is solvent, well run and meeting its charitable objectives. We look for up to 50% of our Board members to include people with lived experience of the circumstances of the people we serve and who may have used our services.

About you
We are looking for new Board Directors who share our passion about the importance of advocacy in enabling people to have choice and control of decisions in or about their lives. You will bring knowledge, experience and skills to support our strategic development, growth and diversification. Knowledge and experience in charity and voluntary sector finance; HR; Business management; strategic and partnership development; commissioning and contracting; advocacy, social care and health services would be especially useful.


  • Attendance and active participation at monthly Board meetings, currently held during the day
  • Attendance at our annual AGM

The total commitment is around 4 hours a month. In return we offer a highly rewarding role and all travel expenses.

Get in touch and make an application

We’d love to hear from you. For more information please download our application pack:

For an informal discussion contact Chris Mackie, Managing Director, [email protected] or on 0131 554 5307.

Problematic Substance Use Service

AdvoCard are pleased to announce our new problematic substance use advocacy service. This service is for those people living in Edinburgh who have/had problematic substance use (PSU) issues. This new service is for those that are having difficulty having their voice heard, expressing their views and navigating services.

For more details, or to make a referral, you can give us a call on 0131 554 5307 or see here for more details. www.advocard.org.uk

Mind Our Rights! A collective advocacy Mental Health Awareness Week event

on: Wednesday, 15 May 2019 from 13:00 to 16:30 (BST)
at: The Hive, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Morningside Place,

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week has a theme of Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.  

Edinburgh Community Voices, LEARN and REH Patients Council are hosting a collective advocacy event bringing in-patients, service users, survivors, people with lived experience and mental health health professionals together to discuss: how can people who experience poor mental health ensure that their rights are recognised, respected and realised in relation to their bodies and the processes of care, treatment and recovery.

You can find out more about the event and book a place via this Eventbrite link: 


Places are limited so please book if you wish to attend | Sandwich lunch provided for all attendees at 1pm

Please share with your networks as appropriate

Thank you

Edinburgh Community Voices in collaboration with LEARN & REH Patients Council

AGM report

Thanks to all those who attended and participated in our recent AGM. We also said goodbye to our outgoing Chairperson, Dianna Manson. We thank you for all your hard work and dedication, and wish you all the best for the future.

Our AGM report – which was distributed at the meeting – is available here for download:

Our Strategy Document is also available here: