The annual Blackpool Advocacy conference took place this year from the 25th to 27th February 2020. With a theme of ‘2020 vision’, the event encouraged everyone to think of what they would like to happen over the next decade.
On 25th February, an excited group of the people we support and staff from our Lancashire and Merseyside services descended on the Grand Hotel. To kick off the event, there was a selection of workshops on in the main hall including the Merseysigners and a ‘Speed Mates Session’ with Meet ‘N’ Match. In the evening, our group took part in ‘Mark and Phil’s Famous Music Quiz’, calling themselves ‘Brothers Got Talent’, but unfortunately after a great team effort they missed out on winning but did extremely well!
Zumba was first on the agenda on Wednesday and was a great way to start the day. A range of guest speakers followed on from the keep fit session, presenting what they have been working on to the crowd. One of the projects focused on creating a national self-advocacy movement, with an idea of bringing self-advocates from across the country together to work on important national issues such as funding for social care.
With a huge choice of workshops to take part in on Wednesday afternoon, everyone from BOCS took part in different sessions and met up afterwards to discuss what they had learnt from each one. They took part in ‘Advocacy’, a drama workshop with Wicked Fish, ‘Belonging’ and the importance of friends and relationships, ‘Home’, a workshop on the range of housing options, ‘Criminal Justice System’ focusing on what can be done about hate crime, ‘Autism’ and much more! The feedback from the workshops was really positive and everyone who took part really enjoyed them.
After a busy day or workshops, it was time to get dressed up for the Gala Dinner! Everyone looked fantastic at the evening event, were they enjoyed a 3 course meal and entertainment from a magician. Once everyone had finished eating, it was time to party! A photo booth full of props gave our team lots of laughter and they all had a great time dancing the night away and even had a go at karaoke. Sue wowed everyone with her expert performance of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, which she found out had won her best Karaoke performance!
Thursday’s events started off with voting for who everyone would like to elect to be part of the Pathways’ groups. The Merseysigners then treated the crowd to a performance of Giant by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man which was followed by the last workshops of the event. The morning was rounded off with the results of the voting and our BOCS attendees were made up to find out that their friend, Linda Stewart, won this year’s Derek Russel Outstanding Leader Award; they couldn’t think of a better person who could have won!
Following on from a non-stop morning, everyone split into local groups to talk to the leaders from the NHS, Lancashire County Council and Liverpool City Council.
Daniel Hall supported people in the Cheshire/Merseyside group and spoke with Sue about the funding Meet ‘N’ Match and the Brothers of Charity Services have received to deliver relationship training in the region. Sue did a fantastic job talking to the group about the projects that the funding has helped to develop and what is being planned for the future. The group also discussed what matters the most to them and what they would like to focus on over the next 10 years. This included relationships and belonging, receiving enough social care support, employment, access to transport and self-advocacy. Organisations will be able to bid for funding to help improve the areas that matter to the people supported.
In the Pan-Lancashire group that Thusira Kenyon was supporting, they discussed what has been successful and what they would like the leaders of the local authorities to concentrate on over the next 10 years. Meet ‘N’ Match, relationship training and working with the NHS to create easy-read leaflets on sexual health services are just some of the initiatives that have been successful over the past few years. The group would like improvements in; support for relationships, equal access to paid jobs, support staff, families and other professionals not imposing their views and values on the people supported and self-advocates being involved in choosing which providers are on the approved provider list.The leaders of the local authorities in Lancashire aim to improve everything that was mentioned by the group.
The Blackpool Self-Advocacy Conference came to an end with all of the groups meeting in the main hall to share their findings. Everyone had a fantastic 3 days at the event, with the people we support from our Merseyside Services saying that they’ll inform their friends about how much they enjoyed the conference and encourage them to attend next year.