People who face discrimination are at the sharp end of inequality and poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought existing inequalities into stark relief. Those of us who are most negatively affected by inequality have also been most negatively affected by the pandemic.
Connected Voice Advocacy was one of the organisations which supported the development of a survey of 435 advocates working across England and Wales that was carried out in June 2020, with support from the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi). The newly published 'Valuing Voices' report brings together the findings from the survey.
Advocates shared urgent concerns which reflect not only the restrictions that the pandemic brought but also the wider attitudes towards people who have additional support needs. There are widespread and profound concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the human rights of people who use health and social care services. Responses indicated frequent failures to provide people with the support which they are legally entitled to, and weaknesses in the safeguards needed to prevent and address these increased risks of abuse and hard.
The 'Valuing Voices' report found that Advocates worked together across the sector to respond to the needs of the people they support in the context of an exceptionally unusual situation. The right to advocacy remained unchanged by the Coronavirus Act and restrictions enacted by government. For some people, this meant good support continued but for others the restrictions meant they could not get the support they needed, when they needed it.
Recognising the essential role of advocacy in supporting people during the pandemic, the report provides details of five operating principles for the advocacy sector:
- Make sure that people are heard, and their rights are respected
- Communicate effectively and safely meet with people in person
- Make sure that people can access advocacy
- Take positive anti-discrimination action
- Work together to promote systemic change
To read the full report and recommendations click here.