Ask the Volunteer: Jean, Citizen Advocate

Ask the Volunteer: Jean, Citizen Advocate

This is the latest instalment in our series of blog posts to celebrate Volunteers Week 2019, where we interview some of our longest-serving volunteers across our many projects. In each interview, they talk about their role, what it involves and what they gain from it.

This time, we speak to Jean, one of our long-serving volunteer Citizen Advocates. Jean discusses the ins and outs of her role, helping to make an adult with a learning disability’s voice heard.


How long have you been volunteering with Advonet for?

I’ve volunteered for several roles over the 10 years I’ve been with Advonet, previously with the Leeds Advocacy part of the organisation. I’ve represented volunteers on a committee, worked briefly with the mental health advocacy team and with the autism support services.

But mainly I’ve been a Citizen Advocate, with a long-term match, supporting an older person with learning difficulties to make informed choices about many aspects of their life, as they need extra help and different services over the years. Building a strong relationship of trust that can be the basis for finding out what they really think, and what they would like to happen, and then helping them make things happen if possible, has been the most rewarding part of my volunteering.

Why did you first decide to become a volunteer?

I decided to volunteer after I retired early from my job with the NHS for health reasons. It seemed like a good idea to use the skills and experiences from that work in a new setting and where it would be useful.  I found that the regular commitment and the new relationships helped me develop a good way of staying physically and mentally healthier than if I’d just stayed at home playing with my iPad!

What does your role involve?

I’ve supported several people over the years. They have achieved lots of things which made their lives a bit better, and I hope I helped make it easier for them to be successful in these.

What have the people you support achieved since you started volunteering with Advonet?

One example is how I helped someone who was unhappy with their work to think about ways to get help to make changes in their work environment. Later, with their family, I helped them to plan a successful move to a different job, and to apply successfully for a disability benefit, and more recently helped them find expert support for changing to the new benefit system and reapplying.

My long-term advocacy partner has also applied successfully for benefits they were not accessing before. This extra money has been very helpful in making changes in their flat, getting the right furniture to help make life more comfortable and the flat easier to use. They have also gradually got more help and support from care services and got used to using them, including help to keep their finances safe, and saying what they want to change at review meetings and other appointments.

A big success early on was finding out that they only had reading glasses and could see so much better when they were out with their new glasses! There are lots more things that would seem quite small in themselves, but over time add up to making life easier and more enjoyable for them. And it’s important to say that that makes me enjoy my life more too.

What would you say to anyone considering becoming a volunteer?

I would say to anyone thinking about volunteering, just get started, get lots of information about what’s out there waiting to be done. Then think about what you want to get out of it – fun, friends, skills, maybe a job at the end of it, or whatever.

Talk to other volunteers and the people supporting them in the organisation and see if it feels right for you. Try something and see how it works out. There will be something that suits, you just have to find it!


If you would like to become a Citizen Advocate like Jean, please visit our Volunteering page for more information, including our Volunteering application form and a video about the benefits of becoming a volunteer with Advonet.


If you would like to become a Citizen Advocate like Jean, please visit our Volunteering page for more information, including our Volunteering application form and a video about the benefits of becoming a volunteer with Advonet.

Would you like to volunteer for Advonet?