Have your say on Scotland’s new social security legislation

In response to the Scottish Social Security Bill being laid before parliament, the Social Security committee have issued a call for views to provide a response and to look at areas that the government can improve on. AdvoCard will be providing a response to this call. If you would like to have your views included in this response please complete our short survey:


July Newsletter

Here is the July 2017 Newsletter/What’s On from Edinburgh Community Voices and AdvoCard:

July 2017 Newsletter

this month: the next Outlook Class Action meeting …the Calendar page – all the dates for your diary in one place…updates on projects and work that AdvoCard is involved with including the A&E | All & Equal project, the Wellbeing PSP and Improving Physical Health… the next Patients Council meeting…the next Service Improvement Group & Cambridge Street Community Voices…the Mad Jam, Redhall Razzmatazz…a report on “What Matters To You” Day visit to AdvoCard by the Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt…and much more.

We hope you find the Newsletter useful – please let us know if there is anything you would like us to include on a regular basis or if you would like to write something for a future edition.
Please note that the next main Edinburgh Community Voices meeting will take place

  • on Wednesday 5 July
  • between 2pm and 4pm
  • at AdvoCard
    332 Leith Walk, EH6 5BR
  • free tea, coffee and biscuits and some good conversation.

If you would prefer to come to a smaller group, you are welcome to join us at the next Cambridge Street Community Voices meeting

  • on Wednesday 12 July
  • between 3.30pm and 4.30
    (you are also welcome to attend the Servicve Improvement Group that precedes the CSCV meeting)
  • at Cambridge Street House (just by the Usher Hall)
  • also free tea, coffee and biscuits and some good conversation.

Edinburgh Community Voices meetings are open to anyone with lived experience of mental health issues.  If you have not been to an Edinburgh Community Voices meeting before and would like to come along you can call or email to ask us about what we do at the meetings.

Warm regards

Patricia and Becky


Event – Helping People Feel Safe in the Emergency Department

Helping People with Lived Experience of Mental Health Issues
Feel Safe in the Emergency Department

Tuesday 2nd May,
Postgraduate Research Centre, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

We are happy to announce an event which marks the next stage in the “A&E | All & Equal” project.

At the end of 2015 Edinburgh Community Voices spoke to people about their experiences in the Emergency Department with our peer research project “A&E | All & Equal”.  Since launching the project report last year, we have been working with staff from the Emergency Department at the Royal Infirmary to address the issues identified in the report and make things better in the Emergency Department for people who have lived experience of mental health issues.

One of the big issues that came up when we were speaking to people was the issue of not feeling safe in the Emergency Department.

This event will bring together people who have lived experience of mental health issues, carers and staff from the Emergency Department at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to discuss what the Emergency Department can do to help people feel safe when they are there.

Through collaboration and discussion, we hope to come up with new ideas for helping people feel safe in the Emergency Department, and identify changes that could be made.

The event will also give Emergency Department staff the opportunity to hear first-hand from people who have lived experience about the things that make them feel both safe and unsafe.

We will hold two workshops over the day, in order to give as many people as possible the chance to take part.  The timings are still to be confirmed, but they are likely to be 11am – 12.30pm and 2.00 – 3.30pm.  Lunch will be provided in between the workshops.

Travel expenses can be provided.

If you are interested, please contact Becky.  The workshops will be the same, so you only need to sign up for one.  Please say if you can make the morning or the afternoon, or if you would be able to make either of the two.

[email protected], 0131 554 5307, AdvoCard, 332 Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH6 5BR

You can also contact Becky if you have any questions, would like to learn more about “A&E | All & Equal”, or would like a paper copy of the report.  The electronic version of the report is still available here.

Physical Health Survey Report

In November and December last year, we carried out a survey to hear from people in Edinburgh who have lived experience of mental health issues about what’s important to them when it comes to improving their physical health.

We did this so that we can push for their priorities, needs and views to be heard, taken into account and respected when service planners and providers in Edinburgh are looking at ways to improve physical health.  44 people responded.

We pleased to present the results of the survey:

ECV Improving Physical Health

ECV Improving Physical Health (large print)

AdvoCard’s response to DWP consultation (updated)

In response to the Department for Work and Pensions’ Green Paper, “Work, health and disability – Improving lives“, AdvoCard has consulted with a range of people supported by services.  The following response has been submitted:

DWP consultation report 201703

Update (17 March 2017): the report now includes a preamble which provides some additional context.

A service user’s account of help given by AdvoCard

“AdvoCard is an umbrella organisation and supports Individual Advocacy at AdvoCard; Collective Advocacy: a group ‘Community Voices’; Welfare Reform Advocacy; Edinburgh Carers’ Council; The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital; and advocacy at Her Majesty’s Prison. I myself have used three of these avenues: Individual Advocacy, Collective Advocacy and I have attended main meetings of The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I have used individual advocacy at AdvoCard since 1999 probably on more than seventy occasions. Advocacy is enshrined in The Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 as being the right of any mental patient (which includes people having dementia, people having learning difficulties and people who have personality disorders.) Advocacy is about empowering people in a situation where he or she might be at a disadvantage: where there is a bias against a service user or where there is an imbalance of power. Advocacy is helpful where there is a situation of prejudice; where a person needs to find out what rights he or she has in a given situation; or where clarification about a situation is needed. Advocacy helps to lend support in a situation that may be emotionally threatening; and advocacy is an equaliser. A nurse on the Mental Health Assessment Service at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital once said to me that the purpose of advocacy is where a person is afraid to say something or where a person thinks that he or she will forget something that is discussed at an appointment.

“Some of the purposes for which I have used individual advocacy over the years include appointments with Community Psychiatric Nurses; appointments with Consultant Psychiatrists and appointments with GPs, also appointments at other mental health organisations. Beyond this, into the field of general living I have used advocacy for three separate appointments about different things with a housing officer of a housing association; for an appointment with a utility provider; and for an appointment with a pharmacist, plus many more appointments over the years. The advocacy has comprised prior discussion of the content of an appointment; the appointment itself and then a later discussion to go over notes made by the advocate and by the service user on the appointment, to fine-tune the notes and then to sign the notes as being an accurate representation of the content of the advocacy appointment. Advocacy is used by both service users and carers.

“What individual advocacy brings is peace of mind in the knowledge that the service user’s viewpoint (or carer’s viewpoint) will be listened to. The knowledge that the service user’s (or carer’s) viewpoint will be listened to has a positive knock-on effect onto the service user’s or carer’s state of mind & also this has a calming and stabilising effect on the client’s emotional well being. To approach AdvoCard takes the worry out of a situation. When an advocate has been trained he or she is a professional person and is bidden to keep confidential the content of any discussions. The advocate represents the client’s viewpoint and does not put their own point of view forward. It is usually the case that an advocate will work with AdvoCard for a few months or over a year: and this means that there can be a certain amount of continuity for a client having several different advocacy appointments with the same advocate where this is requested. A service user or carer can choose whether to have a male or female advocate.

“A service that can be offered by AdvoCard is to help to compose a letter for a client. AdvoCard have also supplied for me material obtained from the Internet: for example I have been able to have from AdvoCard material on Named Persons; material on the conditions of paying Council Tax; and material on Duncan Street Dental Clinic, a specialist dental practice for patients who have a problem with ordinary dentistry and who have special dental needs.

“AdvoCard is not a listening service but an advocate may be available for discussing with the client the issues for which the client is seeking advocacy. This helps to crystallise the intention of the advocacy appointment and to clarify the issues of the advocacy appointment. In essence, the advocate and the client can discuss between them the subject matter of the appointment and make decisions as to what is appropriate to be included and as to what is best left out of the discussion. With one exception, every single appointment for advocacy at AdvoCard that I have sought over the years has been successful. I have been treated very well by AdvoCard because there have since 1999 been four occasions when I have had a crisis that has followed me to AdvoCard’s premises: and on all of these occasions (an advocacy worker) has given time to listen and act with compassion to my need, for example, my grief about my late brother’s impending death, and on another occasion about my need to go to the Police. So I have a high opinion of the individual advocacy that is offered by AdvoCard and how AdvoCard fulfils a duty of care.

“With regard to collective advocacy offered by AdvoCard there have been two routes that I have taken. Firstly I have attended general meetings of The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital over the years since 1996. The remit of The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital is to discuss conditions associated with The Royal Edinburgh Hospital and it is a campaigning group. Anyone may attend the meetings at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital who has been an inpatient or who is an outpatient. Usually there is a guest speaker at the meetings of The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital and I have found the meetings in any case to be informative, helpful and interesting as well as being supportive . The Patients Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital was taken over by AdvoCard in 2010. The other route that I have taken with regard to collective advocacy has been to be present at meetings of Edinburgh Users’ Forum, another campaigning group but which focused on conditions for mental patients in the community. The topics for which I sought group membership now comprise Community Mental Health Teams; medication; being sectioned; reading case notes; computer training. These are still applicable. However I left Edinburgh Users’ Forum in 2012, I think about a year after Edinburgh Users’ Forum had been taken over by AdvoCard. (Edinburgh Users’ Forum has now been superseded by Community Voices a similar campaigning group for mental patients in the community.) The Community Voices newsletter out each month itemises mental health events in the Community. It adds support and solidarity to be able to mix with others who are in the same situation as oneself.

“So these three avenues are the ways in which I have sought advocacy at AdvoCard: individual advocacy and by attending collective advocacy groups at The Patients’ Council of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital over the years and for some years the meetings of Edinburgh Users’ Forum. AdvoCard is a facilitator and helps people to have a voice in their own or their relative’s care and treatment. AdvoCard helps people to be more independent and to be in touch with what is taking place in the mental health field and advocacy enables people to have a greater say in their care. I am grateful to AdvoCard for all of the help that has been given to me and would like to see AdvoCard being granted continuity of its role as providing and delivering individual and collective advocacy on into the future.”

Consultation: Work, health and disability: improving lives

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are holding a consultation on what changes need to happen within the welfare system. They are looking at how they can help people stay in work longer, how they can support people who are ready for work and what support they can offer those who are not yet capable of any type of work. AdvoCard have been asked to provide a response to this consultation. This is an opportunity for those of you who use our service to have your say and to be heard. We are all aware that there needs to be massive change in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessment process and in employer attitudes towards people with mental health conditions but what changes would you like to see happen?

Please take a few minutes to complete our survey. Don’t worry if you don’t answer all the sections, you only need to respond to the parts that are relevant to you or that you have an opinion. Feel free to include separate sheets for your answers if you need to. Once done please return to Arlene or Patricia at AdvoCard, 332 Leith Walk EH6 5BR

If you need advocacy support with your benefits please contact Arlene on 0131 554 5307 / [email protected]

Download AdvoCard’s DWP Survey

AdvoCard’s Annual Report 2016

Thanks to all who attended AdvoCard’s 22nd Annual General Meeting on 23 November.

If you were unable to attend, here is a copy of our Annual Report which was distributed at the meeting.

AdvoCard Annual Report 2016

We hope you find the report useful and informative.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.

AdvoCard’s Response to the Social Security Consultation

Here is AdvoCard’s response to the recent Scottish Government consultation on a devolved Social Security System.  The majority of this response has been informed by the work of Arlene Astley, AdvoCard’s Advocacy Worker for Welfare Reform and Social Security.  For further information, please contact Arlene on 0131 554 5307 or [email protected].

AdvoCard Social Security Consultation Response

Breaking Barriers to Benefits report

On 11 March 2016, AdvoCard worked with Inclusion Scotland, People First Scotland, Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living on the ‘Breaking Barriers to Benefits’ event.  This brought together people who access social security benefits, with support from Edinburgh based services, and representatives from a range of Edinburgh based services that offer support. We invited services which offer welfare rights information and advice, and services which provide independent advocacy.

There were two aims for the event:

  1. To bring those who are in need of support together with the services that can support them;
  2. To discuss what good practice looks like in terms of supporting people to access their welfare rights, and to identify what could be done better.

Here is the Breaking Barriers to Benefits event report.

This was part of Inclusion Scotland’s Rights and Resilience project.