A Strong Voice

Claire Rodgers talks about her experience of the National Advocacy Service.

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I first approached the National Advocacy Service seeking support in August 2011, after I had heard about the work and ethos of the National Advocacy Service. I knew that their key objective was to empower people with disabilities to voice their needs issues and concerns with the support of a trained advocate.

At the time I was experiencing a number of difficulties due to a lack of HSE-funded personal assistance hours. Although I had continually tried to negotiate the issue directly with the HSE in the past, it was becoming clear to me that I would really benefit from the support of the NAS.

The reality is that many people with disabilities experience issues and problems related to their lack of freedom of movement and choice because of a lack of adequate support to meet their individual needs. Of course, the financial constraints, especially in the current economic climate, are the main reason for the reduced supports and services for people with disabilities. However, this does not change the everyday lives and needs of people with disabilities. For many, the question for support of any kind can be a very individual, intimidating and lonely one if a person is attempting to negotiate it alone.

This is why the National Advocacy Service is a vitally important service for those living with a disability. This is why I had no hesitation in approaching the service with my issue.

Within a short time I was allocated an advocate, who works in the region where I live. Since that time and on an ongoing basis my advocate has been working closely with me and supporting me to address my particular issue.

My advocate works in an incredibly supportive and empowering way. It is clear to me that she, and indeed all staff of the service, work according to a person-centred approach. The main focus of the service is the needs and the desires of the person.

As a client of the NAS, I would say that one of the most important things about the service is that it is completely independent. The significance of this is that it means that it is much easier to express your true feelings, needs and desires without fear that it might impact negatively on any existing services you may already have or indeed on relationships with family or friends.

To have a free and independent voice and, more importantly, for your voice to be listened to and heard is the one of the most important experiences which a person, any person, can have. For a person with a disability, it is very empowering to realise that, with sufficient support, equality can be achieved. Disability is not a barrier to participation, it is simply another way of being. In my experience, this is the objective and message which the National Advocacy Service achieves through its work. It for this reason that I recommend the service to anyone who may need its support.

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