‘My motto when supporting people is two pairs of ears are better than one’

Disability Action is a charity based in Northern Ireland that works with people with disabilities.

By Ciarán Lockhart
Friday, 19th February 2021, 4:00 pm
Maura McNeill.
Maura McNeill.

These can range from physical disabilities to learning, sensory, hidden, or mental health disabilities.

According to the charity, one in five people in Northern Ireland have a disability.

The Voluntary organisation, provides an advocacy service in the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT).

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Maura McNeill is their Independent Advocate in the area.

Maura supports people with physical, sensory disabilities, brain injury and/or Autistic Spectrum Disorder between the ages of 18 and 64 years old.

Describing the purpose of the advocacy service, Maura said: “Advocacy helps individuals explore the options available to them. It helps individuals make more confident, informed decisions. It can’t and won’t tell individuals what to do and promotes self-decision making.

“Advocacy will support individuals once they make their decision to have their choices listened to.’’

Maura said that there are many situations when someone might need to avail of the advocacy service.

“If someone doesn’t feel comfortable or confident to tackle a situation themselves; if situations feel out of their control and they need support; if they need help understanding the services and solutions available to them and how to go about getting these services; if they feel lost and frustrated or if they don’t feel listened to, or they feel that others speak on their behalf without their permission or agreement,’’ she said.

Speaking of the benefits of the advocacy service, Maura said it is confidential, provided free of charge, and independent, which means that Maura can work ‘in partnership with people, with no conflict of interest.’

There are also different types of support available that the service can offer.

“The type of support offered will differ depending on the situation but will always be directed by the individual’s needs, interests, and views,” said Maura.

‘“I can help individuals to make their own decisions, to communicate their decisions to other people and organisations, and to help them feel more in control.

“I can discuss the issues an individual is experiencing, explore the options available to them, help the individual feel more confident in making decisions, agree on a plan of action with the individual and keep everything under review or, with the individual’s consent, I can attend meetings, write a letter or speak on the individual’s behalf.’

“My motto when supporting people in meetings is two pairs of ears are better than one,’’ she said.

If you feel you could benefit from the Advocacy Service in the WHSCT area, Disability Action say that you can contact their Independent Advocate, Maura McNeill on Mobile: 07813 723512 or email her [email protected]