What is Citizen Advocacy?
Deanna and her Citizen Advocate, Helen
When we talk about Citizen Advocacy, we often find ourselves talking about what it isn’t. It isn’t an extension of government bureaucracy. It isn’t a religious or political group. It certainly isn’t a complaints service.
We are a group of local people who care for and value other people in the community. We focus on those members of the community who are believed to have intellectual disability, are often neglected, vulnerable and alone, and who need someone to speak up for them and represent their interests.
We respond to that neglect, vulnerability and loneliness by encouraging and supporting lasting relationships in which practical assistance, support and friendship can result in richer, safer lives for people with intellectual disability.
Many feel that contact with a person with intellectual disability is best left to professionals. This may explain why some people with intellectual disability only experience the company of people who are paid to be there in their lives. Citizen Advocates are ordinary people who do not replace paid professionals.
Citizen Advocacy is NOT a:
- Buddy Program
- Volunteer Program
- Complaints Service
- Paid Advocacy Service
- Legal Service
Citizen Advocates are involved because they have made a voluntary commitment to be a loyal supporter of a person with intellectual disability, to be a friend, who can, when necessary, protect and safeguard their interests.
Citizen Advocates in this community believe in a person’s capacity to understand when no-one else does; notice things that no-one else notices; include people who have been excluded; speak up when others remained silent; act when action is needed; become friends with those who have no-one, and make time to be with someone who has little in their life but time.
The priority of a Citizen Advocacy program is always the promotion, protection and defence of the personal welfare and interests of people with intellectual disability.