Citizen Advocacy

What is Citizen Advocacy?

Ordinary people doing ordinary things of extraordinary importance

 

Citizen Advocacy is a community-based program of one to one, or nearly one to one, relationships between people with intellectual disability and unpaid members of the community.

The program is government funded and will not be funded beyond 30th June 2018. Unfortunately we will not be able to allocate new Citizen Advocates unless further funding becomes available in the future. If you think this program should continue contact your local member.

We will continue to support our current Citizen Advocates and the people who they are matched with.

 

Why are Citizen Advocates needed?

We all need a network of family, friends and neighbours to care for, support and challenge us. However, many people with intellectual disability do not have those networks.  In our community, there are people with disabilities who feel alone and isolated and whose hopes, dreams, and, sometimes, basic needs are not being taken seriously.

 

What they’d really like is to feel included. What they’d really like is someone who will talk with them, listen to them, support and encourage them, do things, go places, and help them in any way that a good neighbour or friend naturally would.

 

The CAWS Citizen Advocacy program carefully matches a person with intellectual disability (including multiple disabilities) to an unpaid member of the community who wants to volunteer their time to be an advocate. Experienced professional staff at CAWS provide assistance, training and ongoing support to advocates.

 

Citizen Advocates are people who . . .

  • are of all ages and come from all walks of life who, generally, have had no prior skills in working with people with intellectual disability
  • believe in the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect so they protect the people in the community who are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and unfair treatment
  • can put themselves in the shoes of someone at risk in the community to see beyond their disability and value them for who they are
  • has the desire and commitment to make a positive difference to the life of a person who is isolated or at risk, without looking for material rewards
  • believe that integration, not segregation, of people with intellectual disability is beneficial to all members of society
  • provide friendship and practical assistance to a person who may have no one in his/her life, when they need it
  • provide encouragement for people with intellectual disability and increase their self-esteem and self-confidence
  • offer companionship and opportunities to take part in everyday activities such as seeing a movie together, going shopping and having fun!

 

What is Intellectual Disability?

Approximately 3% of the population have an intellectual disability. Having an intellectual disability usually just means it takes longer to learn and understand new things. With the right opportunities, support and assistance many people with intellectual disability can lead rich and rewarding lives.

 

What are the benefits, to someone with intellectual disability, of having a Citizen Advocate?

  • knowledge that someone cares for them and will protect them against being harmed by other people and systems
  • having someone to help to them grow and develop as individuals giving them an improved self-esteem and self-image
  • recognition and acceptance as individuals in the community
  • confident that they are secure, protected, supported and have assistance when they need it
  • guidance on how to live a more fulfilling life finding opportunities to live, work and be involved in their community
  • confident that they have someone looking out for them and representing their interests; helping them to feel that they belong to society and have a future.

 

What are the benefits, to a member of the community, of volunteering to be a Citizen Advocate?

  • Developing and enjoying mutually satisfying relationships
  • Gaining insight and wisdom
  • Learning and growing through personal commitment and action
  • Learning the value and meaning of personal commitment
  • Increasing one’s own moral strength
  • Sharing suffering and joy