National Lottery Funded Advocacy

Advocacy supporting the health of neurodivergent adults
A partnership project delivered by the WFDA and AchieveAbility (AA)

Evaluation for National Lottery Community fund

Screening is part of the project as we recognise that screening is key to the mental health of neurodivergent adults and therefore is core to our work. We carry out two types of screening. The first is a screening for dyslexia only which is carried out over the phone. Between February 1st 2022 and July 31st 2022 we have processed 63 of these.
The second type of screening is in more depth and carries a range of neurodiverse learning differences including dyslexia, ADHD and autism. This type of screening is completed via Zoom. Between February 1st 2022 and July 31st 2022 we have processed 21 of these. After the screening participants receive a report of the outcomes and some recommendations for the future.
People who wish to be screened come to us in a variety of ways. With some it is word of mouth with others it is through our adult groups or through social media including our website. Quite a few people come on the recommendation of their GP or another health professional. People who have been screened are invariably very happy with the process. We receive many positive comments which mention how it has helped them understand their learning differences and how it has helped them to move on as they more fully comprehend how to channel these learning differences into a more constructive outcome. Many of our Advocates have been screened by the WFDA and have benefited from this greater knowledge about themselves and their way of thinking.

Organisation and training
The project leader made a call for advocates in January 2022. A meeting was then set up via Zoom to outline the project, the role, the expectations and the funding for the role.
Training dates were set up on 4 May, June and 6 July each session 2 hours long. The first training gave an overview of what do we mean by Advocacy; this was delivered by Becky Morris from AchieveAbility with 100% of the advocates present. There followed a training link available for how to make your presentations accessible (June). On 6 July a training session was delivered on safeguarding. This was done via Zoom with 80% of the advocates present. This was delivered by Dr Katherine Hewlett from AchieveAbility and Marcia Brissett-Bailey the adult safeguarding officer for WFDA. There have been thee formal training sessions with five informal reconfirming sessions on a 1- 2 - 1 basis.

Numbers of Advocates
There are nine advocates drawn from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. The gender mix is much more female. However as the recruitment was about self-advocacy too the project leader accepted Advocates on a first come first served basis. There is diverse representation in terms of ethnic mix and all Advocates are asse4ssed as neurodivergent.

Numbers of sessions and topics
Since February 2022 the sessions happen every two weeks. For the last Wednesday of the month the advocates are responsible for supporting a more formal session where there are invited speakers. See link on WFDA web site. They help with the chat, facilitate and support the Q and A discussions. All sessions are recorded.

Formal sessions supported by Advocates happened on 26 January, 23 February, 30 March, 27 April, 25 May, 29 June, 27 July and 31 August

Advocate led sessions were on:
13 April “ Managing Mental Health”
11 May “My Journey in Managing my Manager”
15 June “ Mindfulness and self care”
13 July “Silence and speaking as a spiritual issues”

Next Sessions are:

21 September “ Managing Emotions”

19 October “Self Employment”

16 November “ Resilience in the Workplace”

14 December “ Postgraduate study and working”

All Zoom sessions last 1.5 to 2 hours. There is regular attendance of 25-30 neurodivergent adults drawn primarily from London but also from: Scotland, Wales, Southern and Northern England. A Zoom invite is sent out three days before the event to 200 people on the WFDA database. There are flyers for each event, which are posted on the WFDA web site.

Each Advocate is allocated 13 hours for the year to lead on one session, to support one other advocate in their session. To contribute to Zoom discussions, share knowledge and to support other participants at the Zoom talks.

An evaluation meeting was held on 7 August with five Advocates in attendance. The Focus group lasted for one hour and was facilitated by the WFDA Adult safe guarding officer. The evaluation showed the project was meeting the outcomes of the funders, which is to: Involve communities and people from the start, build on strengths, connect with the community. Following each Advocate Zoom session there was reflective discussion on how the talks were received.

What has worked well?
• The combination of the screening for neurodivergent conditions, then referral to the adult group work was considered excellent.

• The training was thought to be well focused

• The management of the project is working well with the right balance of structure but flexibility for advocates to make key choices. There is freedom but guidance is at hand

• The programme has empowered the Advocates and enabled them to become more insightful of themselves and others.

• They have developed new skills in: Communications, technology and how to work as a team.

• The teamwork and networking has provided positive experiences and so there are less barriers and more skills for resilience

• The group works well, sharing concerns, issues, techniques for short cuts.

• The tools for Advocacy enable the group to work effectively as role models

• The teamwork is excellent as they are like minded people, they are less isolated with the peer support.

What could be developed ?

• More sharing of knowledge as “we do not know what we know”.

• There could be training on leadership skills

• We need to celebrate more – be more visible

• More reflective discussion at the end of each advocate talk