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An advocate comes from within”: what makes a good advocate?

12 January 2023

Denise has worked as an advocate and team leader at VoiceAbility, and is now an Operations Manager for London and East England. She shares her experiences, and what makes someone qualified for these challenging but powerful roles.

I started as an advocate in 2016 and became qualified in a really short period of time. I was really happy as an advocate, I loved my job. When I was asked if I wanted to move up to a team leader role, I said yes. 

Now I’m the Operations Manager for contracts across London, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and very recently Essex. The changes I wanted to happen are happening across Voiceability. I’m empowered to change things and work with a fantastic team who help to make this happen. I know our teams, and believe this helps.

What do you look for in an advocate?

I don’t just look for qualified advocates. Their personal qualities matter more: how they feel about people, what they want to do for people. They need to care about human rights. When they talk about family members they’ve supported, or clients they’ve had in other jobs, I’m looking for that spark and that passion.

We don’t rely on life experience, or work experience. We would also consider people who have recently finished university, but they’re volunteering for a refuge, or invested in people’s rights. We have found that on occasion our advocates spend some time with us, then decide to go on to work as barristers or solicitors, or go back to learn more about human rights at university. That person-centred knowledge that they have gained from being an advocate will always remain with them.

We can teach someone all about advocacy, but I believe an advocate comes from within – it’s how people are.”

What motivates you?

I care passionately about the areas I work in. Lockdown changed things drastically. We were working remotely, but we learned to support each other. Teams are now reporting they’re much happier, and we have had people who have left come back to us. We ensure our staff are supported.

Now that we are going out more, we arrange for advocates to buddy up. Most of our meetings are remote but there’s still a positive support network. We do get together; we all met in the summer in a park in London and had a Christmas meal together.

We want to continue to support our advocates as they are our frontline staff: they are the ones who support the people we work with.”