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Literally saving lives’: culturally-appropriate advocacy in action

24 August 2022

Advocate Salma shares how culturally-appropriate advocacy made a huge difference to Shafiq’s wellbeing and long-term care.

I say this with no exaggeration: you and this cultural advocacy service are literally saving lives.

Shafiq’s daughter-in-law

Shafiq is a devout Muslim, and her culture is hugely important to her. After becoming unwell, Shafiq was detained in a mental health ward, where she felt beleaguered and isolated. Cleanliness is essential to performing her prayers, so she needed access to a bidet as well as her prayer mat and Quran. For Jumma prayers on a Friday, she needed to have her nails cut. Shafiq also missed eating her own culturally Asian food that she had enjoyed all her life.

Advocate Salma was able to quickly build a trusting relationship with Shafiq. 

They were able to communicate in Shafiq’s mother tongue, Punjabi, and Salma was sensitive to all her cultural and religious needs. Staff were informed, and were then were able to arrange for Shafiq to have access to everything she needed for her religious practice, and the cultural food that she enjoyed. This change had a positive impact on Shafiq’s mental wellbeing: she was more settled on the ward and receptive to the treatment.

When it was time for Shafiq to leave the ward for a residential home, Salma found out that the home offered by the local authority was one which had only one member of staff who spoke Punjabi, and no other residents of Asian origin. The menu at the care home did not offer any food that Shafiq wished to eat. 

Salma researched residential homes locally and shared the options with Shafiq.

Shafiq chose a care home with several Punjabi-speaking staff, and other Asian residents who also spoke her language and would be able to relate to her culture. The home also had a variety of options to meet residents’ cultural dietary needs. When Salma visited Shafiq in her new home, Shafiq said, Everyone is lovely, like a big family. The staff are wonderful.” She also told Salma that if she’d gone to the other care home she would’ve been, so unhappy, very sad, depressed.”

Shafiq’s daughter-in-law expressed her gratitude too. 

When we decided to put mum in a care home, Salma really helped us understand the process and included us throughout the process, breaking things down for us to understand and listening to my mother-in-law’s wishes.

We know Salma worked very hard to get my mother-in-law’s voice heard, and made sure her cultural needs weren’t ignored or minimised.

She spent time with my mother-in-law, built a good relationship with her and really took time to understand her needs.

We are very sure that the process and result would have been very different, and much more confusing and stressful for my mother-in-law and us if Salma hadn’t picked up the case. A huge thank you and God bless.”

Culturally-appropriate advocacy at VoiceAbility

At VoiceAbility, we recognise the broad diversity of people we support beyond their health and care needs. 

Team leaders consider the life experience, knowledge and language skills of our advocates, allocating staff with relevant experience whenever possible to offer a person-centred approach. Advocates collaborate and share their knowledge, to ensure people are offered support to meet their individual needs.

To keep improving our service, we’re currently developing a new Culturally Appropriate Advocacy Training Programme, which will soon be available to all VoiceAbility advocates.