The Citizen Advocacy program started on the Sunshine Coast in 1996. The program has an office in Maroochydore and provides advocacy for people with disability who live anywhere in the Sunshine Coast area.
The citizen advocacy program is funded by the Commonwealth government.
Sometimes people with a disability contact the citizen advocacy office if they have a problem that they need help with. Sometimes another person might tell us about a person who needs help. Most often though, we go to where people with disability live and work and tell them about advocacy. When we do that we often find people who need our help.
We help people with disability by finding a responsible person who will be a citizen advocate. Each person with a disability in our program has a citizen advocate who helps them. They help out in different ways. Sometimes they give advice. Sometimes they are a person you can talk to in private who won’t tell others what you say. Sometimes they sort out a problem for you, and sometimes they just spend time with you as a friend.
The job of the citizen advocacy staff is to find citizen advocates, and assist them so that they can help people with disability who are in the program.
All services for people with disability which are paid for by the State or the Commonwealth Government have rules or standards which they must observe. These standards are there to make sure that people with disability are treated properly by services.
I would like to tell you about the standards which the citizen advocacy program must observe when we are doing our work.
The first standard is about how people with disability are able to get help from the citizen advocacy program.
Since citizen advocacy is only a very small service, we are not able to help everyone who asks. To make sure we help the people who need us most, we have rules we follow to decide who we should offer our service to.
We are very careful not to make decisions about people we help because of how old they are, what religion they are, whether they are men or women, or what country they come from. In other words, we are careful not to discriminate against people and be fair about the decisions we make.
We decide who we can help by thinking about how vulnerable a person is. That means if they are in a risky situation, or they have a serious problem they can’t fix themselves. Sometimes people are vulnerable because they don’t have other people like friends or family who can help them when they need it. Sometimes people are vulnerable because they aren’t able to read or understand things that other people can. They need an independent person who is on their side.
What do we do for those people who aren’t able to be part of the citizen advocacy program?
We will tell them why we have decided not to offer them a service, we will give them information which might help them with their problem, and we will help them contact another service which might help them.
People with disability are not all the same. Services need to be careful that they do not treat people with disability as though they all want the same things, at the same time, in the same place. People with disability are individuals. That means that citizen advocacy is careful to understand about the individual parts of a person’s life, and what it is that each person wants in their life.
Citizen advocacy staff make a plan about each person and the type of citizen advocate they need.
Citizen advocacy makes sure that each person has their own citizen advocate who knows about them and what their life is like.
Citizen advocacy staff talk to each person privately and give them a chance to say what it is that they want the citizen advocate to help them with.
Citizen advocacy staff ask each person if they agree with us about who will be their citizen advocate.
Decision-making and Choice
People with disability have the right to have their say about what happens in their life.
Citizen advocacy staff listen to what people with disability say and takes what they say seriously.
Citizen advocacy makes opportunities for people with disability to have their say about what the citizen advocacy program is doing, and how the citizen advocates are helping them.
When a person with a disability is not able to say what they are thinking, the citizen advocacy program talks to others who know that person well.
Privacy, Dignity and Confidentiality
People with disability have the right to be treated with respect, and to have private information about them kept private and confidential.
Private information about people with disability is kept in a locked filing cabinet in the citizen advocacy office, and on a computer which is also locked.
Any person who might see private information about people with disability at the citizen advocacy office, must sign a form which says that they will keep private information private and confidential.
Citizen advocacy staff ask people with disability to sign a form which gives consent before they allow anyone else to see private information about them.
Participation and Integration
People with disability often live or work in places where they do not meet other people who live in their community, and do not have opportunities to be involved in things that happen in their community.
Citizen advocacy staff make a plan with each person with a disability who is part of the citizen advocacy program. Part of the plan is about helping the person to be more involved with their community.
Citizen advocates help people with disability to meet new people and get involved in community activities.
Sometimes people with disability are vulnerable because they are not seen as valued friends, valued workers, or valued citizens just because they have a disability.
Citizen advocacy makes sure that everyone involved with the citizen advocacy program sees every person with a disability as a valued person.
People involved in citizen advocacy talk to other people in the community about how people with disability should be seen as valued citizens.
People involved in citizen advocacy are valued citizens and people take notice of their opinions about people with disability.
Citizen advocates show others how they value people with disability by helping and being loyal to them.
Complaints and Disputes
People with disability need to feel OK if they have a complaint about the services they receive. They need to be sure that they will not be punished if they make a complaint.
Sunshine Coast Citizen Advocacy will help a person with a disability who wishes to make a complaint. Citizen advocacy staff must sign a form to say that they will help people with disability with complaints.
Citizen advocacy has rules about how people with disability will be helped with their complaint.
A person with a disability can talk to their citizen advocate, or talk to any citizen advocacy staff member about their complaint.
Services need to be managed well so that people with disability will get the support and help that they need. Services need to always keep looking for ways that they can get better at helping people with disability.
Sunshine Coast Citizen Advocacy is managed by a management committee whose members have been involved in citizen advocacy for at least five years, and have experience and skills which help the citizen advocacy program.
Sunshine Coast Citizen Advocacy reviews how it does advocacy and keeps looking for ways to be better at what it does.
The people involved in citizen advocacy are independent from other services for people with disability.
Training and Support
Citizen advocacy staff train and support citizen advocates so that they can be skilled at advocacy for people with disability.
People with disability learn from citizen advocates about how to get what they need from their services.
People with disability and citizen advocates are invited to events where they will learn about advocacy.
In the next section I will tell you about the way that we make sure that citizen advocacy staff can their job well.
Staff Recruitment, Training and Support
People with disability need services to be staffed by people who are skilled at the work that they do.
Sunshine Coast Citizen Advocacy employs people who are experienced and who show that they can do the work they are
asked to do.
The citizen advocacy staff regularly have training which gives them more skills to do their work.
Protection of Human Rights and Freedom from Abuse
People with disability in Australia have the right to protection of their human rights and be free from abuse. These rights must be respected by all services which help people with disability.
Citizen advocacy is mainly for protecting people with disability from abuse and neglect.
Citizen Advocates are trained and supported to protect people with disability from abuse and neglect and to prevent it happening in the future.
Citizen Advocacy staff talk to other services and members of the community about the rights of people with disability.
People involved in citizen advocacy attend and speak at events which teach people about the rights of people with disability.
Remember, if you would like more detailed information about anything you have read here, please contact the Citizen Advocacy office on (07) 5442 2524 and we will be happy to assist you.