As a care home advocate, you would help residents in care homes to understand, and take control of, the decisions which affect their lives.
The most important part of your work would be to make sure residents' views and wishes are heard, and that those responsible for their care do not make assumptions about what is best for them.
Your tasks would typically include:
You could give support on many issues, including choice of accommodation, care home closure, discontentment with the service, exploitation or abuse (physical, psychological, financial or sexual), financial matters, power of attorney, and disputes or difficulties with family members.
You could work full- or part-time hours, depending on the particular job.
You would have an office base, but would spend most of your time visiting clients in care homes and attending meetings.
Your work could be emotionally demanding, as some of the issues you deal with may be distressing.
Full-time advocates can earn between around £16,000 and £25,000 a year. Coordinators and managers can earn around £30,000.
Many advocates work as volunteers, and paid positions are often part-time. Volunteers receive travel expenses.
You could be employed by local or national advocacy organisations. Advocates are impartial, and should not be employed by the organisation providing the care home service. Employers are usually voluntary organisations.
For details of local advocacy organisations see websites such as Action for Advocacy, Older Peoples Advocacy Alliance and Dementia Advocacy Network (part of Westminster Advocacy Service for Senior Residents).
These may be advertising vacancies, or you could approach them to find out about opportunities for volunteering.
There is no set route to becoming an advocate. Employers will expect you to show a positive attitude to ageing and an understanding of the needs of older people. You may find it useful to have experience with this age group, from paid work, volunteering, or experience as a user of advocacy or care services.
Experience such as care work, social work or counselling could be an advantage. However, employers are likely to place more importance on your skills than on your qualifications.
Starting as a volunteer advocate would be a good way to gain experience – you could contact the advocacy services listed in the further information section below to find out if they have any volunteering opportunities. As a volunteer you would receive training and support to develop your skills.
For both paid and volunteer advocate work you must haveCriminal Records Bureau (CRB)before starting.
You could have an advantage if you are able to speak a community language.
When you start work as a paid or volunteer advocate, you would receive induction training, supervision and support through your employer. You may also be able to attend training offered by other advocacy organisations, as some provide training which is not just open to their own staff and volunteers.
Visit the Action for Advocacy website for details of the City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate and Diploma in Independent Advocacy, other available training and general information on advocacy and Code of Practice guidelines for advocates.
Some advocacy organisations have gained accreditation for their qualifications from the Open College Network, but these are only recognised at a local level.
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A care home advocate needs:
With experience you could progress to a more senior role, such as advocacy coordinator.
Action for Advocacy
Dementia Advocacy Network
(Has a page on the website of the Westminster Advocacy Service for Senior Residents)
Older Peoples Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL UK)
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.