SHEP Advocacy Project (Previously known as the Cork Advocacy Service).

Our primary focus is on Independent Group Advocacy Facilitation in residential and community settings that serve adults with disabilities including older people in nursing homes and people using mental health services.

This is an area of independent advocacy that has been largely neglected as one to one advocacy support has become more professionalised over the past ten years. We will also continue to support advocacy networks and facilitate advocacy trainings.

This change (from a focus on one to one advocacy support to group advocacy facilitation) reinforces SHEP’s community development ethos and builds capacity for change through experiential learning and participatory group work.

We are currently working on the development and co-facilitation of courses and workshops that focus on all elements of advocacy e.g. self, peer, group and representative advocacy.

We are involved in particular advocacy activities that link us with other individuals, groups and organisations that have a commitment to social justice and human rights e.g. The ‘Our Rights and Medication’ Advocacy Group, the Independent Advocacy Gathering.

As part of our training programme we offer a SHEP Certificate; ‘Introduction to Advocacy’  aimed at those wishing to develop their advocacy skills. We also offer a course in Self-Advocacy which we tailor to specific group requests. For further information see the Training and Development Section of the website, or contact Deirdre Lillis, Advocacy Co-ordinator on (021) 4666180 or email deirdre.lillis@socialandhealth.com

History of Advocacy

SHEP has been involved in advocacy since the year 2000 and was to the forefront in the development of advocacy for older people through a project called Cork Older People’s Advocacy Service. A defining feature of SHEP’s model of advocacy has been pioneering the training and deployment of advocates in both volunteer and contracted capacities from the context and experience of active involvement in this work.

We participated very successfully in the pilot Advocacy Project for People with Disabilities which was funded by the Citizen Information Board (CIB). This allowed SHEP to offer a high level of representative advocacy through a full-time professional advocate between 2008 and 2010

Since 2010 SHEP Advocates have been deployed to support people facing the challenges of de-congregation (the closing of larger institutions and the shift to supported living in the community). SHEP has also deployed  advocates to provide advocacy for older people in residential settings consisting of regular visits to Nursing Homes providing them with group and individual advocacy.

Our intention in 2021 is to:

extend our work in facilitating independent advocacy groups in settings for adults with disabilities and

develop training opportunities in advocacy to include, self, peer, group and representative advocacy.

Currently the SHEP Advocacy Project consists of a small team of advocates who have completed the SHEP Introduction to Advocacy course. Consideration is also given to prior learning and experience where people are interested in this work and who have not yet completed the SHEP Introduction to Advocacy course.

The work can include:

  • Involvement in particular advocacy activities e.g. The ‘Our Rights and Medication’ Advocacy Group, the Independent Advocacy Gathering.
  • Independent Group Advocacy Facilitation in residential and community settings that serve adults with disabilities including older people in nursing homes and people using mental health services.
  • The development and co-facilitation of courses and workshops that focus on all elements of advocacy e.g. self, peer, group and representative advocacy.
  • Attending SHEP Advocacy Project team meetings where we meet regularly to share learning and develop the work of the project.
  • Helping out with the administrative tasks of the Advocacy Project
  • Some one to one independent advocacy support may also be provided to disabled people who are struggling to get their voice heard and the rights respected with signposting to other independent advocacy services where necessary.

To support the Advocacy team SHEP provides supervision, garda clearance, and on-going support and guidance from SHEP’s Advocacy Co-ordinator.

The SHEP Advocacy Project invites people to become involved as volunteers and where resources allow, as contracted advocates.

The role of the advocate is to give time to listen to people’s concerns and work out, with them, how advocacy can support them or help them to support themselves. It is based on building a relationship of loyalty and trust and confidentiality. It can involve access to information on rights and entitlements. Our move to focussing on group advocacy facilitation as a primary area of work involves applying these skills in group settings.

Those who volunteer and who undertake contracted work with the SHEP Advocacy Project find that the commitment is fulfilling. They value being a member of a team of people with similar values. They also find that the regular team and supervision meetings are very helpful.

Working as an advocate with SHEP is an opportunity for people who have successfully completed SHEP’s Introduction to Advocacy course to put their learning into practice. It may suit people who wish to give something to their community through providing supports to others.

If you are interested in getting involved with SHEP as an advocate you would need to:

  1. Share SHEP’s commitment to independent advocacy
  2. Successfully complete SHEP’s Introduction to Advocacy Training Course (or equivalent).
  3. Prepare an application and, if shortlisted, attend a selection interview.
  4. Have shown an understanding and commitment to the values of advocacy and a commitment to working with disabled people dealing with inequity and marginalisation.
  5. Have the capacity to work in this complex and sometimes demanding role.
  6. Undergo garda vetting as required.

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