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VoiceAbility receives 1,000 referrals to benefits advocacy service in Scotland

4 May 2023

VoiceAbility has celebrated receiving 1,000 referrals for its benefits advocacy service in Scotland while marking the country’s Independent Advocacy Awareness Week.

The voice and rights charity reached the milestone in April, 15 months after launching the free advocacy service – the first to stretch the length and breadth of Scotland.

Anyone in the country who self-identifies as disabled can get independent advocacy support from VoiceAbility to help them to understand and access Social Security Scotland benefits.

Advocacy in action: Kirsten’s story

Kirsten received supported from VoiceAbility advocate Alex to complete an Adult Disability Payment form

Kirsten is among those to have used the free service, after getting stuck while trying to complete an Adult Disability Payment form.

Kirsten contacted VoiceAbility via email, with advocate Alex assigned to her case.

I don’t think I’ve met anybody who knows as much as Alex does,” said Kirsten. 

The way she can just draw things out of you is fantastic – it’s exactly what you need.

Alex was a huge help, and I don’t think I would’ve got it submitted if it hadn’t been for having that support.

Advocacy in action: Nicola’s story

Support is also available for parents, guardians, or carers who are accessing social security benefits for a disabled child, as well as those who identify as disabled themselves and wish to access benefits for their child.

Nicola said she got herself into a right state” when applying online for Child Disability Payment for her son and was ready to throw her phone out the window.

Nicola (left) was supported by advocate Gillian to apply online for Child Disability Payment for her son

Nicola was supported through the process by VoiceAbility advocate Gillian, who she describes as an absolute saviour”.

The application was initially rejected, but Nicola said Gillian gave her the confidence to try again and win the redetermination.

Afterwards, Nicola said:

It’s made a massive impact on my son’s life, because it means he’s now getting what he needs to live a happier life.

The first 1,000 referrals

VoiceAbility chief executive Jonathan Senker reflected on the referrals milestone during Independent Advocacy Awareness Week (April 22-26), which aims to promote independent advocacy in Scotland and highlight the difference it makes in people’s lives. He said:

Stories like Kirsten’s and Nicola’s demonstrate the vital role independent advocates play in supporting people to ensure their voice is heard and they get the support they need.

We know how tough the experience of accessing benefits can be, so we’re pleased to have supported our first 1,000 people to do this. With the cost of living rising alarmingly, this has never been more important.

This is just the start, as we know there are thousands more people who could benefit from independent support. 

We know this is just one important area people need to have their voices heard, so we aim to rise to this challenge by supporting people to be heard in decisions about their health and social care too. 

In July we take another step towards this by providing advocacy for adult carers in Edinburgh.”

VoiceAbility advocate Cheryl King pictured at a community hub in Glenrothes with a volunteer and Iris Sauer-Derricutt, a welfare support worker at Fife Council and Glenrothes

All last week VoiceAbility hosted community hub drop-ins to raise awareness of the support available, with advocates pitching up in Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Inverness.