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New advocacy pilot project

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 07, 2014

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A GROWING number of older people with cancer will now receive additional support and information.

This is thanks to the success of an advocacy pilot project, jointly funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and the Big Lottery Silver Dreams Programme.

The success of the pilot has lead to the announcement of further investment from Macmillan to extend the pilot beyond the initial 18 months and to increase the reach of the service to make it Staffordshire wide.

The Advocacy on the Wards project is an initiative started by the Older People's Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL) in conjunction with Macmillan and was initially piloted in five sites across the UK, one of which is delivered by the Beth Johnson Foundation covering Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. The project began in July 2012 with a primary aim of providing effective and independent advocacy support to older people affected by cancer, supporting them to speak out and get their views heard on decisions related to their treatment and care.

In its first 18 months the project recruited 10 volunteer advocates who had a direct experience of the impact a cancer diagnosis can have themselves. These advocates supported 36 local people over the age of 50, who were facing their cancer diagnosis alone.

Advocates provide support around a wide variety of issues including treatment and care, social and financial difficulties, employment issues and providing a listening ear. One homeless client has been supported to secure accommodation with a social housing association, to obtain furniture from the local furniture mine; to have a Department of Work and Pensions assessment and to apply for Personal Independent Payment.

Another advocate supported an elderly gentleman, with no relatives, to obtain information on will-making, organ donation, Lasting Power of Attorney and advanced decision making regarding his care. The advocate was able to be present during the appointment with the solicitor to ensure that the client had all his wishes recorded.

Kath Curley, Cancer Advocacy Project Co-ordinator at The Beth Johnson Foundation, said: "It is fantastic that the pilot has been so successful that Macmillan have decided to extend the project. Many older people feel vulnerable following a cancer diagnosis and are not confident or well informed enough to ask the right questions and ensure that they get the most appropriate treatment. Our advocates support them to speak out and to get the information they need to make informed decisions on their care."

Marika Hills, Macmillan Development Manager, said: "The success of the pilot is a real testament to how important this project is. Evidence is mounting that older people are less likely to receive the treatment they need when cancer is diagnosed, despite the fact that cancer rates increase with age.

No-one should have face cancer alone, and with support like this in place we can help ensure no one has to."

If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just someone to talk to, call free, Monday to Friday 9am-8pm on 0808 808 0000 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk. For more information about the Staffordshire Peer Advocacy and Support Project please contact Kath Curley on 01782 844036 or visit www.bjf.org.uk

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