Meet Our ICAS Lead Advocate, Jo!
Jo Stanley-Cook is DIAL’s Independent Complaints Advocate (ICAS). To celebrate Advocacy Awareness Week (6th – 10th November 2023), we interviewed Jo to hear about her role and why advocacy is so important.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy involves helping clients through challenging processes that they may struggle to navigate on their own. The role of the advocate is to empower the client to actively participate in these processes. There are a number of different types of advocacy, including our Independent Complaints Advocacy service (ICAS).
What does your role as an ICAS Advocate look like?
ICAS offers support to anyone needing help with NHS and Social Care Official Complaints Processes. As an ICAS Advocate, I connect with clients through home visits, on the phone and by email. My role involves explaining the official complaint processes to clients, assisting to write and structure complex letters of complaint, and monitoring the clients’ complaint processes. I also interact with service providers and ensure that clients are kept informed and involved throughout their complaint journey. If required, I also further support clients by attending meetings with professionals.
My goal is to support them in achieving the best resolution for their complaints. I also recognise and refer any safeguarding concerns while empowering clients to engage with safeguarding processes.
Why is Advocacy important? How does it support people?
Advocacy supports clients in dealing with and understanding complex complaints processes and terminology. I help clients to make sense of their situation and the next steps to move forward. This includes deciding what they want to say in their complaint and the resolutions that they would like.
ICAS clients are supported specifically through complaints processes from the beginning to the end. Although the outcome of a complaint is not always what the client would want, our client evaluations show that over 95% of clients are satisfied with our service. As well as this, individual clients have expressed their appreciation for the valuable support that they have received from our ICAS service.
A brilliant service; supportive, understanding and knowledgeable.
Are there any challenging aspects of the role?
An advocates job is to remain independent and it is important that clients are aware of this. Advocates are not here to handle tasks on behalf of the client, but instead to provide support and encouragement for clients to take action independently. The boundaries of the role are sometimes misunderstood, so I find that it’s important to be clear about what ICAS can offer in each initial client meeting.
How is your role rewarding?
Advocates can empower clients to be more confident in accessing services, which is a positive change for the client. Supporting clients through various processes can boost their confidence, creating a lasting impact for their lives.
As an Advocate, I find it personally rewarding and fulfilling when I receive feedback from clients who say that they now feel more confident to pursue self-advocacy after receiving support from ICAS. A fantastic example of this is a previous ICAS client who has now gone on to establish a borough-wide specific support service and has featured on local TV!
Do you have any hopes for Advocacy in the future?
I hope that various forms of advocacy remain accessible to people, in Barnsley and beyond, and that statutory organisations continue to further acknowledge the value and significance of advocacy services in ensuring equal access to advocacy support.