When my husband George died three months ago I was knocked for six. I started to drown in all the paperwork – there are so many people to notify when someone dies and George was always the one who looked after our finances.
I didn’t know where to start and it got more and more difficult to leave the house or cope with day-to-day tasks. I’ve always suffered with my mental health, but Helen has become my guardian angel, helping me to notify the relevant people and understand the documents I had to sign. She even knew about some benefits that I’m entitled to. She’s made life so much easier and nothing seems to faze her.
There’s always a smile on her face and if something is troubling me she takes the time to listen. It makes such a difference to know you have a shoulder to lean on at such a rotten time. I still have my bad days but with Helen’s help I am finding a way to stand on my own two feet again.
Being an advocacy worker means wearing lots of different hats – you might be a friendly ear one day, then talking about legal, medical or benefit issues the next. You work with a client for a limited amount of time, but you may see them on and off for many years. All these things are what makes the role so interesting.
When I met Betty, she needed someone who could help her navigate the system and access the right services while getting to grips with the loss of her husband. It takes time to get to know a new client and you have to work to earn their trust. It’s a big responsibility to speak up on someone else’s behalf, but it’s also a privilege.
When you get the right outcome for your client it’s incredibly rewarding. I can see the relief in Betty’s face. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re not quite in control of your own life, especially if you’re coping with mental health issues as well. But we all deserve respect and dignity. That’s why I try to help Betty break things down into manageable chunks and always give her time to think about the right route for her. It’s hard work but incredibly fulfilling. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
There are a number of characteristics that all great advocacy workers share – chances are you already have many of them.
Advocacy workers are naturally kind, patient and compassionate towards their clients. They also make great listeners.
You’ll meet a lot of people, which means you’ll need to be good at developing lots of different types of working relationships.
It’s likely you’ll help clients navigate complex medical, legal and benefits systems, so you’ll need good communications and negotiation skills – think friendly, flexible but persistent.
Sometimes you’ll be helping clients deal with complicated paperwork, so it helps to have an eye for detail and strong English skills.
This role is all about helping clients feel more in control of their life, so it requires a practical, non-judgemental approach – the decisions they make may not be the ones you’d choose.
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