The Power Of The Professional By Claire Salathiel

Claire Salathiel kindly offered to share a recent experience she went through she was worried her funding through her local council was going to be taken away. Claire recruited the support of an advocate as she believed they would be able to provide objectivity to the situation.

Here is Claire’s story in her own words…

I recently endured a review of my HACC services. During this process, I learnt the value of engaging a professional advocate. I had always considered myself more than capable of advocating for myself, however, my case manager had asked that my Dad be there at her next home visit. I figured she was trying to make sure all her “I’s” would be dotted and her “T’s” would be crossed. I asked myself why this would be and came to the conclusion that they wanted to reduce my services or cut them all together. I decided I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. So I brought in a professional advocate. It was the best decision I ever made.

The moment I informed the case manager that I was going to engage the services of an advocate, the dynamic between her and I changed for the better. Suddenly, she realised I wasn’t a pushover. She asked if I wanted her to find the advocate. I chuckled and said that that would be a bit of a conflict of interest. The dead silence on the other end of the phone told me that they now were worried that they weren’t going to be able to get rid of me. Why would they be worried? Because now this was a fair fight.

The advocate instructed me to go get occupational therapy reports. These reports clearly highlighted the extent to which I was underfunded. They expressed grave concerns about what might happen if my funding was cut any further. Apparently, the case manager of my HACC package wasn’t overly concerned, because she informed DHS that they were withdrawing all services. Yet again, the case manager underestimated my ability to advocate for myself. I knew that funding for HACC is given to the council concerned by the federal government. My case manager and her bosses obviously didn’t think I would go to my local federal member. Within hours of contacting this MP, I had assurances from him that the case manager would not withdraw services until DHS had the funds to take over from the HACC package.

The lesson here is that the most effective way to advocate for one’s rights is in a partnership with professional advocates. If I had approached this review of service using solely professional advocacy or solely self-advocacy, I would likely not have achieved such a favourable outcome. The professionals brought objectivity to the problem, something that is almost impossible for a client or family member to bring to the table, because situations like the above are so stressful. There is a saying in legal circles: the client who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer. The advocates objectivity helped me build a case that would be worth taking to my local member or the media. Without their help my approach to my local member may not have been as successful. Likewise, if I had relied on the professional to make the approach, the outcome may not have been as favourable. By writing to my local member myself, I created a personal connection which may have increased the local member’s willingness to help me.

In recent years I have heard advocates push to get people with disabilities to advocate for themselves without the support of professionals. I am of the opinion that this is not in the best interests of the client. The most favourable outcomes are likely to be achieved when clients have professional support to make the best use of their self-advocacy skills.

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