Time to be inclusive …

The Covid-19 lockdown has shone a spotlight on the numerous community groups, charities and causes who work in our town to help the most vulnerable in our community. We caught up with Camilla McGregor at Include Me to discover more on the charity and their work …

It was 12 years ago that Include Me was established in North-East Fife – set up by a group of local people. Camilla explains: “The creation of the charity followed a 2-year development process supported by Fife Council. Today, we are managed by an independently constituted Management Committee currently with four members who give their time voluntarily. We have two paid part-time Citizen Advocacy Development Workers – and I am very proud to be one of them.

Camilla joined Include Me in 2017. Previously, she’d worked primarily with children, young people and families in education, care and social work settings. Camilla says: “Most recently I worked as an Inspector of Care Services at the Care Inspectorate.  I enjoy using my experience and knowledge to support our advocates and their partners as a development worker.

What the charity does …

Include Me is a small local charity – funded by Fife Council: their work …

  • Recruits
  • Trains and
  • Supports

… local people to advocate on behalf of someone, who – because of their circumstances – are or feel less included in their local community or less able to have their voice heard about the things that matter to them.  The charity works with those who have:

  • A disability
  • Autism
  • Early onset dementia
  • A brain injury or
  • Mental health issues

Camilla says: “Include Me’s voluntary citizen advocates are (extra)ordinary people who choose to get to know and stand by someone in their own community who may be vulnerable.” She adds: “Sometimes an advocate may simply provide companionship, a listening ear and is a friend to spend time with. In other cases, more serious advocacy might be warranted and the advocate will act as a spokesperson for their advocacy partner. Each advocacy partnership is unique.

Based in Cupar, the charity began as a direct response to local demand – from individuals with advocacy needs, their families and forward thinking professionals. It was created having seen the difference similar advocacy services were making in other parts of Fife.

An inspiration …

Camilla adds: “Advocates and Advocacy Partners (the people they support) are very inspiring people! It’s hard not to feel inspired by a grass roots organization made up of local people who have stepped forward to support and empower vulnerable people living in our community.” The only reward comes from the joy of getting to know and understand someone the volunteers may never have otherwise met. Each gets to develop a loyal, trusted, long lasting friendship to help people overcome issues and barriers which may have halted their abilities to have their views heard.

Camilla is part of a small but very dedicated team: she explains: “Our key personnel are our volunteer advocates, our committee and our stewardship group. We have a team of just two employed to work part time – me and my colleague, Helen Glass. Helen has been with Include Me since 2014 having previously worked in mental health in Fife for 17 years. She’s currently undertaking a part time postgraduate course at Dundee University … for fun!  It’s an absolute privilege to work in an environment that promotes social justice by valuing all people as equal individuals.

One to One

The key to Include Me’s success is the advocacy of their work and forged partnerships. Camilla says: “We see people begin to flourish and contribute more and more to their own life plan. It’s exciting to see how one person can help another in this way.” The charity follows a stepped process: matching someone with a local person in a Citizen Advocacy Partnership can take some time, and is carried out sensitively and carefully: Include Me …

  1. Identifies people who would benefit from the long-term, one-to-one relationship which Citizen Advocacy offers.
  2. Gets to know the person (the Partner), their interests, needs, issues which will enable us to form a picture of the kind of person we would ideally like to recruit to be their Citizen Advocate.
  3. Networks for the Citizen Advocate – this means using our knowledge of local contacts, both groups and individuals, to find the person we feel will be a good ‘match’ – for example they may live nearby, be of a similar age, share the same interests.  
  4. Recruits the person we think is responsible and more suitable to become the Partner’s Advocate and request from them the names of two referees and a routine police check.
  5. Prepares the Citizen Advocates to give their time freely and make a commitment to the Principles of Citizen Advocacy through a preparation course.
  6. Once the Citizen Advocate has been identified, we will introduce them to their potential partner and continue to meet together until we are satisfied that both people are comfortable with each other.
  7. Regular and on-going support will be provided to the partnership in a way that strengthens its independence from Include Me.​​

You can read more on the charity’s Advocacy Stories via this link.

Can Include Me help you?

If you need Include Me’s help – or you know someone in our community that would benefit from their unique support, you can contact the charity yourself – or a friend or family member can get in touch on your behalf. You can also be referred by any professionals who are working with you, including:

  • Social Workers
  • Community Psychiatric Nurses
  • Housing Support Staff
  • Doctors
  • Other health professionals such as Speech Therapists or Physiotherapists.
  • Support staff from voluntary organisations

Would you like to be an advocate?

If you’re inspired by Include Me’s work and would like to help the charity by becoming an Advocate, please get in touch with them. Citizen Advocates are …

  • Ordinary people who choose to stand by someone who may be vulnerable in their own community.
  • Citizen Advocates don’t need qualifications or experience, just the will to make one other person’s life better by getting to know them, representing their interests, protecting their rights and involving them in the life of the community.

The charity says: “Advocacy is an everyday activity that we often take for granted. Broadly speaking it’s when we speak up for ourselves or someone does this on our behalf. However there are people in our community today who have no-one to advocate for them. This can put those people at a significant disadvantage as there is no-one to keep an independent watch on their quality of life or help them be more included in their community. So, Citizen Advocacy is when responsible citizens leading full lives in our communities get to know someone who experiences exclusion from their community or unfair treatment and who needs help to make decisions about their own lives. Include Me’s role is to create and support the development of long-term Partnerships between the two people.”

You can get in touch via this link to their website.

And finally …

As with all our Blog profiles, we ask what is recommended to anyone visiting Cupar for the first time – or for the first time in a long time: Camilla says: “Cupar is a great place to visit. I’d suggest that a visitor pauses for a moment to look at and appreciate the diversity of people living side-by-side in our small community. Apart from the beautiful shops, great products for sale, buildings and parks – we also have great people in our midst.

 

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