Who we work with
We offer a wide range of services for those who have Mental Health needs, Learning disabilities, Dementia, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Physical Disabilities, Sensory and Communication Impairments, Substance Misuse Issues, Acquired Brain Injury, a serious physical illness or a Dual Diagnosis.
We also work with Looked After Children, Young People, Adults, Older People, Carers, Parents, Families and people in the criminal justice system.
With one in four people experiencing mental ill health at some point in their lives, and one in six people experiencing it right now, Mental Health is a subject that needs to be understood by everyone.
With appropriate support and treatment, many people who experience Mental Health illnesses are able to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
There are a large number of mental health support services out there, but many people still face the significant challenge of overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness. Because of that stigma, those who suffer from it don’t always feel able to speak up for themselves. Others find that when they do, their views are not listened to or respected.
VoiceAbility works in both secure settings and in the community to ensure that the voices of those with mental ill health are heard. Our Independent Advocates work individually to set goals and work towards them in a clear and logical way. Every person we work with is fully involved at all times and is kept at the centre of decisions about their care and treatment.
Individuals with a mental health illness may want to join one of VoiceAbility’s Self Advocacy Groups which run in different local authorities. Find out more about Self Advocacy (link to self advocacy page) or check whether there is a group running in your area (link to in your area).
People who have a learning disability can find it harder to understand what is happening, especially if the people around them are not investing the time to involve them fully.
Learning disabilities can differ in severity and characteristics can vary hugely, affecting a person’s ability to communicate as well as their physical and mental health. Our role is to keep each person in the centre of their own life. The people we work with may be concerned about a range of issues including where they live, the services they have access to and their ability to live the life that they choose or overcome the challenges they face or want to face.
Our role is to understand the goals and ambitions that each person wants to work towards and to support them to achieve these aims.
Because of the range of characteristics experienced by people with learning disabilities, our advocates and project workers are trained to work in a flexible and innovative style, working to support the abilities and challenges that each individual has. This includes providing information in formats that are easier to understand like easyread, makaton, wigit, talking mats, audio files and more.
Some people with a learning disability also have a mental health illness; this is usually called dual diagnosis and VoiceAbility work with a large number of people for whom this is the case. We are always sensitive to additional challenges that may face the people we work with and we devise tailored, individual plans to meet each person’s needs.
With the population increasing, dementia is becoming a greater challenge every year and by 2021 it is expected that over a million people will be living with dementia. Advocacy can be vital to those with dementia if people are not understanding their needs or listening to their point of view. Often rights are not taken into account and professionals make ‘best interest’ decisions without having taken the time (and in a lot of situations not having the time) to find out everything they can to support a person centred decision.
Many individuals with dementia also lack the capacity to make decisions regarding their accommodation or serious medical care. In those circumstances, an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate would be needed to ensure that the person’s rights, wishes, preferences and needs were taken into consideration.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
Many of our services working with people with learning disabilities include people who are on the autistic spectrum and we work hard to ensure that their individual needs are met.
For example, where possible, our offices are kept free from unnecessary furnishings and clutter and the levels of noise, light and temperature can be adjusted. We also have materials that we can use when communicating which can help to provide positive sensory experiences.
Having a physical disability, a sensory or communication impairment brings with it a range of challenges that can affect every part of a person’s life.
Advocacy is there whenever an individual or group want to raise their voice about issues in their own lives or those of their peers. VoiceAbility works with people in a way which is suitable for their abilities and will agree an advocacy plan, detailing what outcomes they want to achieve and how they can work towards achieving them.
Our advocates and project staff are trained in the use of a wide range of communication methods enabling us to work with people who have specific communication needs, for example the use of communications, switches, makaton, visual aids or easyread documents.
Acquired Brain Injuries can be caused by a trauma to the brain (e.g. a fall or accident) or an injury since birth (e.g. a stroke or tumour). The causes of an ABI are varied, as are the long term effects. Many of our services offer support to those who have suffered an ABI, with Independent Mental Capacity Advocates being required in some cases and professional advocates in others.
Those requiring a professional advocate may want support to make an informed decision about accommodation or services that they could access in order to increase their independence and manage their rehabilitation. Whatever the situation, when somebody with an ABI wants to work with VoiceAbility in order to have greater choice and control over their lives, we will endeavour to help them wherever possible.
In many of our services, the reason why somebody needs an advocate is due to a serious physical illness. If somebody who becomes seriously unwell is unable to make decisions about medical treatment, for example, an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate would be brought in to check that everything was being done to make a decision that was in line with that person’s wishes.
We currently have one service that works with individuals who have substance misuse issues, in Wandsworth. Individuals who are affected often have mental health issues as well and have difficulty engaging with professionals who may be able to aid their rehabilitation process. We work with those people to ensure that their voice is heard and they feel confident in beginning to take back control over themselves and decisions about them.
Young people who are ‘in care’ may feel that they are ignored by the system, that they are moved with little or no notice from one home to another, or from one school to another. They can experience anxiety and depression as a result of being uprooted from friends and family and feel completely out of control. Advocates and Independent Visitors can support them to take control of their situations and ensure that decision makers make their procedures person centred and transparent.
VoiceAbility works with a range of people and the specific conditions that we have listed above are by no means exhaustive or exclusive.
VoiceAbility’s goal is to work with every single person who is disadvantaged or vulnerable. The need for advocacy and voice work is recognised by the Government but at the moment not every client group is represented and not all local authorities provide advocacy for everyone who needs it.
If you are unsure about whether we have a service in a particular area, for a specific condition or for a particular issue please contact your local office and they will be able to help you find out the right information.