Our highly valued team of Volunteer Advocacy Workers deliver a vital advocacy service to mental health service users and those with problematic substance use issues in Edinburgh. Our volunteers come with a wide range of backgrounds, skills and experience. What they all share is a commitment to advocacy and a belief that our advocacy partners should have their voices heard and their rights respected. Advocacy is becoming more widely accepted, but there are still many, many people out there that we would like to reach. Volunteers are crucial to us. We wouldn’t be able to carry on offering the support to our service users without them.
In fact, more than 300 volunteers have offered their time and dedication for Advocard over the last 25 years! A dozen of those volunteers have been employed by Advocard and others have gone on to gain employment in other Scottish Advocacy organisations.
We want to give you a flavour of what it’s like to be part of a service that really makes a difference. Here, a couple of the many people involved with us give their views on advocacy in AdvoCard.
Tony – AdvoCard service user:
“AdvoCard volunteers took the time to listen to me and their understanding helped me to gain confidence and self esteem. They can’t change my issues, but they have helped me to face them. Dealing with large organisations can be daunting for most people – if you suffer from mental health issues this can seem a hundred times worse. My advocacy worker has been amazing support. I feel that I’m being taken more seriously and regaining some of the power that I’ve felt I had lost.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am in my life just now without the support of AdvoCard.”
Dave – Volunteer Advocacy Worker:
Dave began volunteering for AdvoCard in February 2004. Having experienced mental health issues in the past, and with previous experience of volunteering, AdvoCard seemed to be the natural choice.
“The intensive training offered from day one really helps you to prepare for what to expect. No two days are ever the same, but there is a support network within AdvoCard which ensures you’re never left feeling like you’re not delivering for your service users.”
Jane – Volunteer Advocacy Worker
Why be a volunteer for AdvoCard?
I looked for some time for a voluntary work organisation where I would be able to use some of my life skills and experience and also be encouraged and supported to develop myself further.
AdvoCard has given me those opportunities and I continue to find it a rewarding and stimulating experience to work as a Volunteer Advocacy worker.
The process of engaging with service users who present with a huge range of challenges in their lives can be daunting. The thorough and well- planned, initial training gives you the confidence to at least start the process of listening, respecting, reflecting and planning that will help you as a Volunteer Advocacy Worker to support service users in being heard and having their rights upheld. That partnership between you and the service user can be enormously empowering.
The training is just the start of a journey. Additional training and support will continue to be offered and you will be listened to, helped and respected by Paul and others who work for AdvoCard.
My advice to prospective volunteers: go for it- this may be one of the most interesting journeys you will make in your life!
Norma – Volunteer Advocacy Worker
I have been a volunteer with Advocard for 10 years and would recommend it as a worthwhile volunteering opportunity. The following questions and answers may help you make up your mind.
We are all volunteers
Helping someone find their voice
Opening up avenues for solutions to problems.
We have an interest in people and time to spare
Having a sense of fair play
You are never bored, there are a wide variety of issues.
We attend meetings to provide moral support
Having a good listening ear is essential
A non-judgemental and completely independent organisation
There for our service users and no-one else.
We meet many places, always in public view
Home visits undertaken in pairs can be organised
Each case is different, requiring different skills
Ready for any event or occurrence
Each meeting is carefully planned and screened beforehand.
We give out time when we can
Hours to suit all
Each time we work we are well supported
New challenges bring new personal rewards.
How to join us
All our new Volunteer Advocacy Workers need to complete our Initial Volunteer Training which fully prepares them for their important role. The 10 session training builds on the existing skills we all use in our day to day lives and ensures that volunteers feel confident that they are well informed and skilled at delivering high quality advocacy to our service users.
Your volunteering contribution is part of a two-way process that can bring you worthwhile work and life experience and opportunities for personal development. All volunteers need to have some availability during the working day, Monday to Friday.
Step 1 – apply
Please download our Volunteer Application Form, Equality & Diversity Monitoring Form and Criminal Convictions Declaration Form and send them back to us. These do need to be printed out, because you have to sign them. If you are unable to do this, please contact us and we will be happy to send the forms out to you.
Step 2 – find out more
You will be invited into the office for a short interview. We will send you more details when we have received your forms.
Step 3 – the training
Our 10 session training programme for new Volunteer Advocacy Workers runs twice a year, usually Spring and Autumn, and is facilitated by staff and Volunteer Advocacy Workers.
Step 4 – references and checks
Once you are accepted as a Volunteer Advocacy Worker with AdvoCard, we will take up 2 references and need verification of your membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme before you can go ahead.
Step 5 – getting started!
The work can begin! Whilst you are working with us we will offer you ongoing support and training to ensure that you continue to be able to work to a high standard. We want you to feel confident that your skills are up to date with the progress of the advocacy movement, mental health services and all relevant legislation. Out of pocket expenses will be covered.
If you would like more information or would like to pop in for a chat to find out more please get in touch!
“I became part of a committed, open, friendly team where everyone’s opinion mattered, while also meeting and working with a diverse group of service users. The work can produce challenges, but there is always the knowledge that by giving a relatively small amount of my time I can make a large difference to someone’s life.”
“The process of training to become a Volunteer Advocacy Worker was both enlightening and rewarding for me. Training as part of a group helped me see how different types of people can gain the knowledge and support to feel they can be of help to both one another and service users. The training process is thorough and fully supportive throughout the proceedings which gives you a sense of your own capabilities and skills that will be useful to you in your advocacy work.
I would wholeheartedly recommend people consider becoming a Volunteer Advocacy Worker. It’s an experience I felt not just beneficial for me, but also for the people I went on to offer advocacy too.” – Darren Volunteer Advocacy Worker