Personal experiences which have influenced the lives and opinions
of those involved in social care.
I started my "psychiatric career" over 20 years ago. During that time
I’ve had to learn to understand both myself and the mental health system in
order to make life tolerable.
has been a key tool in my personal journey, different forms of it having given
me the opportunity to recover my life, family, work and self-respect.
these years service users (including myself) have fought hard to see advocacy
acknowledged, but are we about to become victims of our own success? The
current trend towards advocacy (it now appears in the Health and Social Care
Act 2001 and is clearly a part of the reform of the Mental Health Act 1983)
seems to indicate that it is now truly seen as valuable.
the beginning, mental health service users utilised advocacy to challenge the
status quo; it was developed with individual rights and beliefs foremost. With
all the current discussion on the theme, will we see advocacy developed as a
mental health service? If so, will it become a "profession" where,
inevitably, power lies with "the professionals"?
seems that we are in danger of going full circle. Advocacy, the tool that we
created to challenge professional power in mental health, could itself become a
bastion of power. If so, service users will return to their old position at the
bottom of the mental health hierarchy.
Liz Skelton is a member of the UK Advocacy
The children’s rights movement has made significant strides towards helping
child welfare professionals understand how important it is to listen to
children and take their views seriously. This has been supported by the voices
of survivors of abuse who show us how difficult it can be for children to tell
their stories, and how bad adults are at hearing them.
recent example brought home to me the crucial nature of engaging children in
decisions being made on their behalf. The story, written down by a 12-year-old
girl, documented her flight with her mother from domestic violence. Finally she
described her feeling of horror at being told she was to attend supervised
contact with her father.
all of this, no-one asked her views on contact or explained what was happening.
It was not until she ran away in desperation that someone sat down with her and
she was able to talk about the sexual abuse that she had experienced from her
There were many missed opportunities for someone to find
out what this girl’s views were and which might have prevented further anxiety,
danger and abuse. So, if it is still so easy to overlook the views of an
articulate, intelligent 12-year-old, how much easier is it to overlook the
views of younger, or disabled, or less articulate children? Our vigilance and
determination need to be constant.
Sheena Doyle manages the Safer Communities
Programme at the Children’s Society.