New advocacy service launched in Coventry for autistic people and people with learning disabilities

A fresh approach to advocacy in Coventry will help bring autistic and learning disabled people back from the margins of crisis and build self-advocacy skills for a more resilient, independent future.

Funded by the Henry Smith Charity, a national organisation providing grants to reduce social and economic disadvantage, the advocacy service is delivered by local charity Grapevine after Coventry was identified as a high need area for independent non-statutory advocacy.

A white woman with red hair sits with a pen and notepad as she talks to a disabled woman and her support worker at an indoor event at Theatre Absolute.

Running for three years until 2025, the service aims to help up to 80 autistic and learning disabled adults (aged 17 plus) a year who are living with a range of complex, inter-related issues – such as mental health, isolation and exploitation – but don’t qualify for government-funded support.

It is anticipated that Grapevine’s advocacy services will cover a number of issues including housing, financial abuse, sexual exploitation, debts and benefits, access to better health support, domestic abuse and help getting an initial Care Act assessment or a reassessment.

These issues are based on common experiences of participants from our Help and Connect project over the last decade where Coventry people with a learning disability are supported to make a plan, get connections, get work and stay healthy and safe.

While many referrals may come from Help and Connect participants, Grapevine is reaching out to more people in local communities and professionals or groups working with people in these communities to make use of the free service too.

Advocacy lead for Grapevine, Alice Evans, said: “Every day we witness and hear about the isolation, hate crime, health problems and lack of opportunities that people experience.

“Often people go through this without anyone who understands them, who might help them to speak up or explore solutions.

“Our approach to advocacy is different because it combines a traditional one-to-one service but within an ecosystem of Grapevine support that is proven to change lives for good.

“We all know that the pandemic increased isolation but referrals to us for people concerned about safety, mate and hate crime and exploitation also increased by 40 per cent. In new cases, due to the deterioration of circumstances caused by Covid-19, we are now looking at crisis intervention.”

An older black man wears a coat and striped jumper at an indoor Grapevine event. He is looking up and younger black woman wearing glasses is listening and holding a piece of paper next to him.

Following advocacy for the immediate issue, Grapevine will help people with autism and learning disabilities to build their self-advocacy skills – ultimately feeling more able to access services and professionals, know and ask for what they want, and request reasonable adjustments.

The aim being to offer a service that is flexible, long-term and preventative. One that gives people choice and control over their lives and access to their rights and entitlements.

Alice continues: “We want people to feel confident expressing their wishes and to challenge decisions if they are unhappy. To be able to deal independently with issues and feel less worried about challenges they may face will help prevent future crises.”

This service is available now.

Request a referral form or further information about non-statutory advocacy for autistic and learning disabled adults in Coventry by emailing advocacy@grapevinecovandwarks.org.

Advocacy in Coventry is part of our #StrengtheningPeople strand of action at Grapevine.

Look out for more advocacy news and stories soon.