Reflections on supporting self advocacy during lockdown

Guest Blog by Jessica Finch, a worker with KeyRing’s self advocacy service in North Yorkshire

Hi I’m Jess. I work for the KeyRing self-advocacy service in North Yorkshire. I help people find the confidence and opportunity to speak up.

I see it as working together with people to achieve a common goal.

I love what I do. I especially love going out and meeting people so lockdown has been a tough time. Working from home can get a little bit lonely and, like the rest of the team, I’ve had to be really creative about working with people.

Not everyone has access to the internet, so we’ve had to think beyond Zoom. We’ve even gone back to letter writing for some people. The feedback from that has been great. I, for one, have loved getting personalised mail.

Before lockdown, we often held meetings in lots of different locations. We have had some amazing support to reach those people that we’d usually see face to face. One provider couldn’t share addresses with us but agreed to send lots of letters to people on our behalf. We got lots of responses through this.

There have been tough times though as well.  Some providers we’ve worked with haven’t been able to help people to keep taking part in self-advocacy sessions. It has been frustrating to hear that some people haven’t been able to access the Wifi where they live or even have the password so that they could add the Zoom app to their own phone.

The people who can come to our online sessions absolutely love them. We’ve been encouraging self-advocates to host the meetings. We host a weekly quiz where we include some topics to get people thinking. It’s been interesting watching how some of our self-advocates have been able to thrive through Zoom meetings.

James* is one of the self-advocates who has become more involved since lockdown began and he’s enjoyed meeting other self-advocates through our Zoom quizzes.

“I feel like I’ve made a new group of friends. I am really looking forward to when we can meet face to face.”

James’ confidence at using technology has also greatly improved. Learning how to use the mute button has been brilliant. The self–advocates have been amazing at giving each other room to speak and encouraging participation.

Here are some of the Self Advocacy quiz questions that we have included:

  • What is hate crime?
  • What is mate crime?
  • What number do you phone in an emergency?
  • What number do you phone if it is not an emergency?
  • What number do you phone for health advice?

We have also created some internet safety cards to help people navigate online relationships. You can access them here.

For me, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people one to one. Some people can be really quiet in group situations and over lockdown I’ve been able to connect with them more personally and unlock their passion. I am really looking forward to finding ways to keep that going in group situations.

*Name changed