EAAS: Changing lives since 1994
Since 1994, East Ayrshire Advocacy Service (EAAS) has provided a free, independent and confidential advocacy service for people in East Ayrshire, helping them to understand their rights and choices and make their voices heard about what is important to them.
Over the years, EAAS has gone from strength to strength, with numerous success stories showing the difference they have made to people’s lives.
We spoke to EAAS manager, Irene Clark, about the work of the organisation and why she thinks advocacy is so important…
“Independent advocacy is essential if we are to ensure that people feel really included in our local communities.
Some people find it hard to express their view and make choices. They may need someone to speak up on their behalf or to stand by them when they speak up for themselves in order for people to listen and take notice of what they say. Advocacy helps people to have their say.”
Averaging at 70 new referrals per month, EAAS provides support to a wide range of people, from adults with learning disabilities, mental health issues and drug or alcohol problems, to adults with vulnerable parents, an acquired brain injury, prisoners in HMP Kilmarnock and children and young people in the children’s hearing system.
As well as supporting residents across the East Ayrshire community, EAAS also works in care homes, day centres, hospitals, children’s homes and HMP Kilmarnock, providing guidance and ensuring people’s rights are honoured and their wishes taken into account when decisions are being made about their lives.
“My staff advocate for people who face so many barriers in life. The service we provide is so varied, e.g. from supporting someone to draft a letter or make a phone call to in-depth one to one support to attend GP or Mental Health appointments.”
The following two case studies are particularly poignant, each showing how the help of EAAS can be truly transformative in protecting a person’s human rights and maintaining their quality of life.
An elderly gentleman was referred to EAAS while in hospital, with no prospect of returning home. Family members had wrongly assumed that he had dementia, due to his occasional challenging behaviour and the fact he had a cognitive impairment and was difficult to understand.
Following his referral, EAAS organised a multi-disciplinary meeting, where it was established that the gentleman had been wrongly diagnosed and did not have dementia.
A multi-disciplinary meeting involves all services who provide support to the person. An advocacy worker often attends with the individual to ensure that their views are taken into consideration when any decisions are being made about their lives.
As a result, the gentleman was able to return home, where he was reunited with his greenhouse and beloved pet dog.
Another case involved a client who’d recently been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. This client was a Kilmarnock Football Club season ticket holder but was now unable to attend matches due to their condition.
Following referral to EAAS, staff first contacted the client’s nurse to check if they were otherwise fit to attend matches, then contacted a care provider to organise someone to accompany them to Rugby Park.
EAAS then collaborated with Kilmarnock Disabled Supporters Association, who organised a wheelchair place to be made available, and arranged accessible transport. Thanks to the work of EAAS and the cooperation of other organisations, the client was then able attend their first football match in two years.
EAAS amplifies the voices of their clients, ensuring they are heard and respected.
Through asserting their right to remain as independent and included as possible, in all aspects of their lives, this invaluable service is nothing short of life-changing and is an asset to the people of East Ayrshire and their loved ones.
Irene spoke of how rewarding her work is at EAAS:
“Over the last 28 years, I have been so lucky to be part of the development of independent advocacy in East Ayrshire and indeed Scotland.
I have witnessed the improvement in people’s lives because they have had access to independent advocacy, e.g. people with learning disabilities who were previously living in hospitals or institutions moving into their own tenancies and becoming valued members of their community.
It has been a very humbling journey.”