Our wide range of services promote social inclusion, equality and social justice. They have enabled us to meet the diverse and complex needs of people in vulnerable circumstances across the region.
“I feel like I’ve gone from having nobody to having an army of guardian angels! Incredible”
Last year we also:
- Employed 21 advocates and a new administration and duty team - all managed and supervised by our Senior Management Team
- Maintained and supported 6 volunteers during pandemic
- Secured employment for 3 volunteers
- Trained 8 advocates through the National Advocacy Qualification and Care Act and Mental Capacity Act legislation
- Worked in over 30 ethnically minoritised communities across at least 29 languages and employed 4 bilingual Advocates
“It is the first time in five years of being unwell that I have got the help I needed, someone who understands my condition and difficulties and is able to help me communicate it”
It’s a Win-win: Watch our film which tells you more about advocacy. We met with Service-users, referrers, commissioners and Advocates to talk about the importance of advocacy and making our services accessible to everyone.
Our award-winning services
We have been honoured to receive the ‘Outstanding Service’ award at the National Advocacy Awards in 2018 and again in 2022. The category aims to ‘showcase the very best in service delivery’ with ‘creative and innovative ways that services are evolving their support’. In 2022 we were nominated by Gateshead Council for our safeguarding work to protect people from harm and abuse and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner for our Hate Crime Advocacy service. The competition was very close each time as there are so many great services across the country. We are proud to have received the awards from our industry peers in recognition of our hard work and impact through advocacy. We would like to thank our staff, volunteers, partners and funders who have all helped to make this possible.
Quality Performance Mark (QPM)
The Advocacy Quality Performance Mark is the UK’s only independent quality standard for organisations offering independent advocacy. It involves a rigorous assessment process and provides a robust benchmark for commissioners to measure independent advocacy services, ensuring they select the very best providers. We have been awarded successive QPMs since 2005 and are delighted to have been re-awarded for a further three years to January 2025.
The assessment highlighted the following areas of particularly good practice:
- CVA are a highly values led organisation; with a passionate, skilled and knowledgeable team, underpinned by strong leadership and robust systems and policies.
- CVA was consistently seen as responsive, dedicated and highly person centred.
- There is a robust approach to funding and understanding the needs of the area CVA serve with a highly motivated management team.
- There is a strong commitment to the involvement of people who have accessed advocacy.
- Robust systemic advocacy is evident, both from external stakeholders and from examples provided from advocates.
- There is a commitment to provide advocacy to meet the full demographic of the areas served and as such a strong approach to Equity and Diversity.
Jane Kingston, Service Manager of CVA said:
[It] was a pleasure to read that the systems are effective, our service is recognised for the values it upholds, the satisfaction the team get from being advocates here and most importantly the feedback from people who use our services. I was so proud to read that the assessor found the team to be so clear on their role and adherence to the advocacy principles.
Here at Connected Voice, we pride ourselves on our award-winning services and achieving recognised quality standards so we can be the best possible employer. See our organisation-wide awards and accreditation
Commissioner’s Quality Assessment
Our Gateshead Statutory Advocacy Services (IMHA, IMCA, ICAA and RPR) were assessed over two days in January 2019 by the commissioner, Gateshead Council. We achieved a 100% score against these outcomes:
- People benefit from person centred care & support
- People are safeguarded from abuse
- People are supported by excellent staff
- Organisational & management systems ensure excellent quality services
- People benefit from excellent security, health & safety
Upholding rights and valuing voices: Advocacy principles for coronavirus and beyond have been developed by advocacy providers, for advocacy providers. We know from our experiences of delivering advocacy that people who use health and social care services are being specifically disadvantaged by the coronavirus restrictions we have all faced. The principles are designed to shape our collective responses and make sure that no-one who needs our support is left out, that people’s rights are respected, and nobody goes unheard.
Our commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Our Manager, Jane Kingston, is part of the Leaders in Advocacy Network, set up by managers of advocacy services across England and Wales in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The group has released a Statement of Intent on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to encourage advocacy organisations to improve the lives of those who are not treated equitably and to call for positive action to make sure that structural inequalities and discrimination are removed. We join our colleagues across the advocacy sector in committing to making radical changes to the current reality of those who face discrimination, identifying four key areas to make a difference:
- Improving our relevance to the communities we serve
- Challenging discrimination in all its forms
- Delivering systemic change
- Improving our employment, leadership and governance practice
At Connected Voice we are committed to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in all our strategies, activities and decisions. Our robust EDI Policy and Action Plan (which is coordinated by our EDI Group and overseen by the Board of Trustees) complement the Leaders in Advocacy Statement of Intent. We put policy into practice and review our progress on EDI actions in each team meeting. We aim to create and promote a culture that will support trustees, staff and volunteers to feel empowered, knowledgeable and able to administer our EDI policy in all our interactions with users of our services, referrers, partners and stakeholders. We will promote equity, diversity and inclusion and will take steps to challenge discrimination, harassment and victimisation in everything we do.
Our advocacy models
Connected Voice Advocacy engages in both Instructed and Non-Instructed advocacy. Advocates support people to make their own decisions (instructed) and also put forward their views for substituted decision making processes (non- instructed).
We work ‘should to shoulder’ with people. Advocates take instruction on what they want them to do and say. People give consent to engage in a partnership with an advocate and lead the relationship with their instructions. Advocates are independent of service providers and therefore represent their views, or challenge decisions.
When someone is unable to instruct then an advocate will take affirmative action with or on behalf of a person who is unable to give a clear indication of their views or wishes in a specific situation. The advocate will establish what level of understanding the person has, and find ways to improve their engagement. This may include using communication aids, tools and personalised help such as pictures, talking mats, Makaton, and gestures. The advocate will consult those who are close to the person to find out how they prefer to communicate and what is important to them.
Advocates use communication aids and investigation skills to build up a picture of the person’s life before they were unable to express themselves or make decisions. They consult with care providers and people around them. They take a rights based approach and ensure that even if the person cannot speak up for their own rights that they are still upheld. The advocate will safeguard the person and their rights, and ensure that the care their receive meets the National Care Standards and legislation that protects vulnerable people such as Mental Capacity Act, Care Act, Human Rights Act and Equalities Act. The watching brief approach follows the eight domains to a quality life which include asking around Competence/Skills , Community Presence, Continuity, Choice & Influence, Individuality, Status & Respect, Relationships, Wellbeing.
Supported Decision Making
Some people are unable to give instruction or make decisions, even after all attempts to help. In this situation they would be assessed as lacking the mental capacity to make a specific decision at a specific time. Then an Independent Advocate will assist the Best Interest decision making process by providing a through report detailing the views and wishes of the person. The advocate will take in to account all the person’s past decisions, values, beliefs, behaviours to build a picture of how the person may have made this decision. Advocates do not make decisions but play a crucial role in the decision making process. They ensure that the decision making is compatible with the Mental Capacity Act and the Best Interest Framework. They produce reports to share with the decision maker that show what the person would have chosen if they were able, and they challenge when a decision does not match this, or isn’t the least restrictive option available.
Our Advocacy project was first set up in 1996 to support people, help them to be heard and secure their rights. As well as supporting people through our advocacy services, we also help to achieve positive change at a local, regional and national level by informing and influencing decision-makers in policy, service commissioning and service provision.
We are respected regionally and nationally as an advocacy leader, playing key roles in setting up local and national advocacy networks, drawing up the Advocacy Charter, the Code of Practice for Advocates and Advocacy Principles. We have provided evidence to numerous consultations about legislative reform. We have responded to developments in advocacy and to the introduction of new legislation e.g. providing statutory advocacy under the Mental Health, Mental Capacity and Care Acts
We have been at the forefront of innovation and digital inclusion, developing our self-advocacy tool, the DIYAdvocate® app and setting up unique specialist services such as advocacy for people with neurological conditions and those from ethnically minoritised communities.
We have been involved in cutting edge research, including working with Durham and Northumbria Universities on their new concept of 'Hate Relationships'. Read their report Exploring ‘hate relationships’ through Connected Voice’s Hate Crime Advocacy Service
We have built strong partnerships across the advocacy, VCSE and health and social care sectors including delivering the Families Through Crisis project together with NE Law Centre and Changing Lives and developing Brain Injury Advocacy with Headway.
We have made a collection of films together with people we work with, referrers and commissioners to explain what advocacy is, how we support the people we work with and what difference it makes:
- It’s a Win-win: we met with people we work with, referrers, commissioners and Advocates to talk about the importance of advocacy and making our services accessible to everyone.
- Voices of Advocacy: shows how important advocacy is and how our team of Advocates' can support you through your journey.
- Fighting For Your Rights: made by people we work with about our advocacy support.
- Hate relationships: New understandings of hate crime: victim/survivors talk about their experiences of hate relationships, the impact on them and the difference support from our Hate Crime Advocacy service has made
Learn more about Connected Voice Advocacy's history from our timeline and the history of Connected Voice in Our Story
You can download an alternative text version of the timeline below