‘We Want Change’ was established as a collective advocacy group supporting people with mental health diagnoses living in supported accommodation. It aims to ensure that the residents can come together, find a collective voice and act together to influence agendas and decisions that affect their lives.
The group started after some of the residents shared concerns with each other that it was hard to have a relationship – all of the rooms only had single beds, and staff had told them that there was ‘a rule’ that partners were not allowed to stay over. The residents felt that this was not fair and that they were being discriminated against. A group of them worked together to find an independent advocate who could help support them to take collective action by facilitating their meetings.
The group initially established ground rules which were largely focused on confidentiality both within group discussions as well as how these conversations and those attending were presented in minutes which were available externally. The group then worked on practicalities such as agreeing the location and format of future meetings to best suit those attending and developed a group identity and brand. These early discussions created ‘We Want Change’ and enabled those attending right from the start to own and direct the group. The group created a space for people to find ways to describe and make sense of their experiences and develop consensus on priorities for action. The independent advocacy worker was able to use her community development skills to enable the group to learn from each other, explore new possibilities and become more effective collective agents of change.
One of the early meetings enabled ‘We Want Change’ members to have a question and answer session with senior service managers. This provided a clear way of breaking down barriers, ensuring that the group’s voice was heard, identifying future actions and enabling a collective movement for change. The group has also worked for positive change by raising issues with the Mental Welfare Commission and the Care Inspectorate.Explore more independent advocacy case studies