POhWER, one of the UK’s largest providers of advocacy services, has revealed an increase in the number of people reaching out for help, with over 400,000 people requiring support over the past year.
The national charity, which provides support and advocacy services to vulnerable, marginalised and socially excluded individuals across the UK, has revealed the figures in its 2020-2021 Full Impact Report, which details the charity’s experience over the last year.
Through all of its services combined, including its national helpline, one-to-one and community advocacy services, the charity has reached over 400,000 people through 2020-21, needing support and facing challenges in securing their rights and entitlements within public services such as care homes, hospitals, prisons, mental health locations, coroner service, courts and the police.
The report highlights how the charity has assisted 82,300 people through its advocacy services, a growing increase on the following year. The impact of COVID-19 caused a surge in such requests for help, with many of its beneficiaries experiencing disabilities, vulnerabilities, distress or social exclusion which were further heightened and marginalised by periods of lockdown.
POhWER Chief Executive Helen Moulinos said: “It has been an exceptional and unpredictable year. Through the pandemic, the role of advocacy, information and advice has become paramount to supporting our beneficiaries in having their voices heard and rights upheld.
“Easements of legislative duties, blanket approaches, dilution of rights and poor access were key themes which threatened our beneficiaries’ lives during the pandemic. We saw socially excluded, vulnerable and marginalised people in many cases finding themselves worse off due to emergency powers and measures taken to manage the pandemic. This was not acceptable to us and we have worked extremely hard to try to create a level playing field wherever we could.
“I am incredibly proud of the successes we have achieved and look forward to building on them through the next twelve months, which is our 25th year. We plan to focus on designing and developing our services to further adapt to the unmet needs our beneficiaries may have.”
POhWER supported individuals as shielding advice confined many to their homes or, in some cases, their rooms, and individual limitations made it harder to access need-to-know information. Many people required assistance with getting food parcels and meal deliveries, shopping or collecting vital medicine.
The increase of people requiring support led the charity to embark on more nationwide campaigning for systematic change than ever before, through parliamentary engagement into topics like Mental Health Reform Act and The Coroner Service.
POhWER also launched new services and types of advocacy, including the New Community Mental Health Advocacy Discharge Project for Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust.