We work with adults who may have mental health issues, learning disabilities, dementia, acquired brain injury or other disability. We also work in some cases with children and with family carers.
You can find out more below about why and how advocacy can be helpful to different people.
With one in four people experiencing mental ill health at some point in their lives, and one in six people experiencing it right now, mental health is a subject that needs to be understood by everyone.
With appropriate support and treatment, many people who experience mental health issues are able to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
There are a large number of mental health support services out there, but many people still face the significant challenge of overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness. Because of that stigma, those who suffer from it don’t always feel able to speak up for themselves. Others find that when they do, their views are not listened to or respected.
Total Voice Suffolk works to ensure that the voices of those with mental ill health are heard. Our advocates work individually to set goals and work towards them in a clear and logical way. Every person we work with is fully involved at all times and is kept at the centre of decisions about their care and treatment.
People who have a learning disability can find it harder to understand what is happening, especially if the people around them are not investing the time to involve them fully.
Learning disabilities can differ in severity and characteristics can vary hugely, affecting a person’s ability to communicate as well as their physical and mental health. Our role is to keep each person in the centre of their own life. The people we work with may be concerned about a range of issues including where they live, the services they have access to and their ability to live the life that they choose or overcome the challenges they face or want to face.
Our role is to understand the goals and ambitions that each person wants to work towards and to support them to achieve these aims.
Because of the range of characteristics experienced by people with learning disabilities, our advocates and project workers are trained to work in a flexible and innovative style, working to support the abilities and challenges that each individual has. This includes providing information in formats that are easier to understand like Easyread, Makaton, Wigit, talking mats, audio files and more.
Some people with a learning disability also have a mental health illness; this is usually called dual diagnosis and Total Voice Suffolk works with a large number of people for whom this is the case. We are always sensitive to additional challenges that may face the people we work with and we devise tailored, individual plans to meet each person’s needs.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
Many of our services working with people with learning disabilities include people who are on the autistic spectrum and we work hard to ensure that their individual needs are met.
For example, where possible, our offices are kept free from unnecessary furnishings and clutter and the levels of noise, light and temperature can be adjusted. We also have materials that we can use when communicating which can help to provide positive sensory experiences.
Physical Disabilities, Sensory and Communication Impairments
Having a physical disability, a sensory or communication impairment brings with it a range of challenges that can affect every part of a person’s life.
Advocacy is there whenever an individual or group want to raise their voice about issues in their own lives or those of their peers. Total Voice Suffolk works with people in a way which is suitable for their abilities and will agree an advocacy plan, detailing what outcomes they want to achieve and how they can work towards achieving them.
Our advocates and project staff are trained in the use of a wide range of communication methods enabling us to work with people who have specific communication needs, for example the use of switches, Makaton, visual aids or Easyread documents.
Acquired Brain Injury
Acquired Brain Injuries can be caused by a trauma to the brain (e.g. a fall or accident) or an injury since birth (e.g. a stroke or tumour). The causes of an ABI are varied, as are the long term effects. Many of our services offer support to those who have suffered an ABI, with Independent Mental Capacity Advocates being required in some cases and professional advocates in others.
Those requiring a professional advocate may want support to make an informed decision about accommodation or services that they could access in order to increase their independence and manage their rehabilitation. Whatever the situation, when somebody with an ABI wants to work with Total Voice Suffolk in order to have greater choice and control over their lives, we will endeavour to help them wherever possible.
With the population increasing, dementia is becoming a greater challenge every year and by 2021 it is expected that over a million people will be living with dementia. Advocacy can be vital to those with dementia if people are not understanding their needs or listening to their point of view. Often rights are not taken into account and professionals make ‘best interest’ decisions without having taken the time (and in a lot of situations not having the time) to find out everything they can to support a person-centred decision.
Many individuals with dementia also lack the capacity to make decisions regarding their accommodation or serious medical care. In those circumstances, an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate would be needed to ensure that the person’s rights, wishes, preferences and needs were taken into consideration.
The over-60s is the fastest-growing group in society and there are more of us than ever before.
Ageing is not an illness, but it can be challenging. At Total Voice Suffolk we stand up and speak for all those who have reached later life to help them explore their choices and ensure their voices are heard.