People First, in collaboration with a range of hardworking groups and individuals, today hosted “A People’s Guide to Self Advocacy” event. The first in a series of similar events, the guide is part of our new project called We Are All People First. The project has been created to deliver a range of People’s Guides in different areas and covering different topics.

Among the many attendees, we welcomed representatives from diverse walks of life, ranging from social workers to parents to people with learning difficulties and autism.

The first thing we covered was the history of self advocacy in Cumbria and why it is so important. This was delivered by DR Rohhss Chapman who has 30 years experience of working in Self Advocacy. We then had stories from our experts by experience. Each talked us through their own stories of how self advocacy has helped them.

Mary said: ‘Self Advocacy has helped me to find my own voice during difficult situations. When I was younger, I needed support for everything from doctors appointments to benefit meetings. As I got to know the system, I became able to say no. I don’t need support this time. If I am ever unsure, I will ask. I hope that everyone can get the support I got, because it is worth it.’

Pam said: ‘Self Advocacy groups have helped me gain more confidence. I can now do lots of different things like typing and answering the phone. I have gained new friends by attending groups.’

We then went on to talk about what self advocacy actually is. Many thoughts were shared in this section and we had an interactive activity for all in the room to get involved in.

People shared their memories of times when they have used self advocacy or have encountered self advocacy in their lives. We then talked about barriers to self advocacy and ways to overcome them. Lots of ideas and thoughts were shared on this subject.

Stef and Adam then updated the group on the current landscape of self advocacy in Cumbria. We talked about our five Cumbrian self advocacy groups: Carlisle, Workington, Whitehaven, Kendal and Barrow, the lead group and the Cumbria Learning Difficulties and Autism Partnership Board.

We then covered our future plans for self advocacy. These include getting younger members to attend groups and reaching those who are harder to reach.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Adult Social Care, Cumbria Parent Carer Forum, Carleton Day Services, Allerdale & Copeland Autism Support Group, Cumbria Youth Alliance, Hospice at Home West Cumbria, Melisanda Berkowitz and People First Experts by Experience.

If you would like to be invited to any further events, Please email Stef on stefanie@wearepeoplefirst.co.uk and we can add you to the mailing list.