Voices Heard Lives Empowered podcast
POhWER has a podcast called Voices Heard, Lives Empowered to give a voice to vulnerable people who might otherwise not be heard, highlight key issues we identify through our work and provide self-help resources.
We first launched the podcast with a series called Hidden Voices: COVID-19, in which we speak to different people and organisations whose contribution and/or experience may be going unnoticed at this time. In these thought-provoking conversations people talk openly about the challenges they have faced and what POhWER and wider society can do to help.
We posted some podcast videos on our Work for Good profile, or you can listen to the full podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes. SoundCloud:
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Deaf Awareness Week 2021
3rd - 9th May is Deaf Awareness Week, an annual event to raise awareness of deafness and hearing loss. Here are some beneficiary stories to show how POhWER advocates can help and accommodate people with hearing impairments.
Oliver is deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate. Staff at the secure unit where he was placed were unable to communicate with Oliver as they were not BSL users and did not feel confident that he could understand what they were saying through lip reading.
Staff reported difficulties in establishing Oliver’s needs and explaining to him why he has been placed at the unit and asked POhWER if an advocate could help. Laura, a POhWER advocate and native BSL user, was assigned to support Oliver.
Laura met with Oliver. She found him to be alert but tired and generally lacking in energy. She established that he understands BSL, is able to lip-read to a degree and also understands some written English. Due to Oliver’s low energy levels, it was difficult for him to use BSL as this is tiring for him.
Laura set up a picture/pointing system that Oliver and the staff can use to communicate with each other. This has helped to improve Oliver’s overall communication and interaction enormously. Oliver is now able to tell staff what he wants and needs quickly and easily. Staff feel more positive about being able to provide Oliver’s care more effectively.
Laura was able to protect Oliver’s right to freedom of expression (Human Rights Act 1998) and helped him to regain control of his day-to-day situation and the services he uses (Care Act 2014).
Amara is deaf and uses British Sign Language. She contacted POhWER for support with making an NHS complaint. Tim, her BSL trained advocate, arranged to meet her to discuss her complaint.
Amara told Tim she had regularly visited her father in hospital, where staff knew she was deaf. One day she arrived to be told that he had died eight hours earlier. She could not understand why no-one had contacted her and was very distressed.
Tim helped Amara to write a letter to the NHS Trust raising all the issues she wanted them to address.
Amara was invited to a meeting with the Trust and Tim supported her to understand what to expect. At Amara’s request he checked that a BSL interpreter was booked, helped her to prepare questions, and agreed to ask these on her behalf as she felt too upset to do so. At the meeting Tim initially spoke on Amara’s behalf, until she gained the confidence to speak for herself.
The Complaints Manager explained that staff had tried to contact Amara on her mobile but when there was no answer, they had not attempted to contact other family members as their numbers had been misplaced.
Amara received an apology and a number of changes were introduced:
Deaf Awareness training was for ward staff
Changes were made to a checklist to record why the next-of-kin was not contacted and what alternative steps were taken
The Trust’s protocol was revised so alternative family members or the police could be contacted
Team meetings were held to update staff of the changes.
Amara told Tim that she had achieved what she had intended by making a complaint. She thanked him for his support throughout the process.
Tyler was transferred to a secure unit from prison while awaiting sentencing. Tyler is deaf and unable to read or write.
Tyler was referred to POhWER for advocacy support as staff found it hard to communicate with him. Gary was assigned as Tyler’s advocate. Gary found out that Tyler knew some basic British Sign Language (BSL) and used this along with gestures and pictures to support him.
Tyler asked Gary to support him to find distance learning courses where he could learn BSL. Gary supported Tyler to find and register on a BSL course.
Tyler has since achieved a BSL Level 1 qualification and he is working toward the BSL Level 2 qualification. Learning BSL has given Tyler more independence and means that he can now communicate with the staff on the ward. He now feels confident to express himself but he is also happy to approach advocacy when he requires support.
Gary’s support helped Tyler to protect his right to education and freedom of expression (Human Rights Act 1998).
Laura is 35 years old and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia ten years ago. She was detained in hospital under section 3 of the Mental Health Act.
Laura requested help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) to help her advocate her views at her weekly ward round. She did not want to be treated by her psychiatrist as she felt she was not listening to her and wanted to change to another doctor. Laura also wanted a review of her medication as she stated that her current medication did not appear to be helping her and raised concerns about lack of aftercare planning when she returned to her home.
Laura’s IMHA supported her to understand her rights under the Mental Health Act and to access relevant and appropriate information regarding her antipsychotic medication and relevant (NICE) guidance on the use of this treatment. This supported Laura to feel more empowered in discussions around her detention and treatment with her clinical team and to be able to self-advocate in her ward rounds with support. The IMHA also represented Laura at her request on how she could be better supported with her medication when she returned home and these points were added to Laura’s care plan. Laura was supported to raise her concerns about not being listened to by her psychiatrist and communication improved between Laura and her doctor.
The IMHA attended three separate ward rounds with Laura, and in each subsequent meeting Laura grew in confidence and was able to represent her views and self-advocate around treatment options as well as ensure that discharge planning was being followed up on a weekly basis. The IMHA told Laura about her rights to an assessment of her needs by the Local Authority under the Care Act 2014 and ensured that adult social care became involved in discharge planning with the clinical team and her social care needs were appropriately assessed.
Laura and her psychiatrist agreed to changes to her medication, a robust aftercare package was put in place and Laura returned home, saying IMHA help had been invaluable in supporting her understanding and confidence to achieve the outcomes she wanted and reducing her current and future risk of being admitted to hospital.
By supporting POhWER vulnerable people like Laura will get the support to make their voice heard.