Self Advocacy Groups are becoming more common in services for people with intellectual disability in Ireland. When setting up a group there are lots of things you need to think about.
Setting up a Self Advocacy Group
When starting a group you need to decide what you hope to do and if people need training before you start. On our course for example we are learning about communication and teamwork which would help when starting up a group. We also looked at leadership and we feel that having a good leader is important as it helps to keep the group together and gets things done. Having the place you are going to meet easy to get to and accessible to everyone especially if some people use wheelchairs or find stairs difficult. The place should be big enough for everyone and a cup of tea or coffee available and quiet no phones ringing during the meeting. Letting people know about the group through notices, letters and word of mouth is important so everyone has a chance to get involved. We also feel that the group may sometimes need outside support and this should be looked at. Practical things like knowing how to take minutes, who is going to mind money and what jobs people will have to do are all things to discuss when starting up. We also talked about the size of the group and we felt that is was important to keep it small with no more than ten people so everyone got a chance to talk and have their say. A final bit of advice for starting up would be to meet with other groups and ask them how they got started and if they have any hints or ideas.
Aims and Hopes for Self Advocacy Groups
We feel from the beginning everyone should have a chance to say what their hopes are for the group. Everyone should come to the meetings with ideas and be prepared to help.
Everyone should be included and no one should hold a grudge if there is a disagreement. It’s important to trust people and be prepared to listen to others and respect what things are big issues for them. There may be disagreements but you need to talk through them and come up with an answer that everyone is happy with.
How to Run the Meetings
You need to have rules especially about confidentiality and this need to be agreed at the start. You need to be responsible and reliable by coming to all the meetings on time. A Chairperson is needed to run the meeting and everyone should have a role and understand what is expected from them. Getting ready before the meeting and knowing what you are going to talk about. It’s important to plan the meetings and have an agenda. Skills such as time keeping, taking notes, listening and organising will be needed. Knowing what to do when an issue comes up and how to get something done will be essential. How to get answers to issues and feedback on queries is a big part of running meetings properly. We also think that smart casual dress would be a good idea when people are going to meetings.
Overall we feel for setting up a self advocacy group the members must create a good atmosphere and team spirit. Everyone must have patience with each other, be interested in what’s happening with no gossiping. Supporting one another we feel is the way to success.