Who we are and what we do: Cathey's role as Advocare's Executive Chair

Having been my mother's full-time unpaid carer and sole advocate, I can identify with others who feel exploited by a system that appears to favour process over people. In my role as Executive Chair of Advocare - Caring for Carers I lead a small, dedicated team of carers and former carers whose guiding principle is to seek fairness for fellow-carers and their loved ones in the face of social injustice. Responsible for driving the Advocare Project forward, I head research and development and direct the expansion programme for our free, independent Caring for Carers service.

As the first point of contact for our Caring for Carers service I am the carer's conventional 'listening ear'. If appropriate I may make a home visit with one of my colleagues. After hearing about the carer's situation and ascertaining their concerns, I may write a resumè of their case and submit a report on their behalf to the relevant authorities. The carer may wish me to accompany them to meetings with service providers. I also run our Advocarers group and facilitate our carer-centred empowerment programme, Assert.

The importance of a free voice for carers

Despite numerous national surveys, countless reviews and revised legislation, Advocare's research and casework shows that carers' needs still tend to be seen in purely practical terms and their 'invisible' - emotional and psychological - needs sidelined by policy-makers. With the benefit of my own and my team's unique insights and experience I can ensure that Advocare remains carer-centred and continues to provide a service tailored to their needs and relevant to their situation.

I feel strongly that society as a whole must listen to unpaid carers and ascribe more value to them as individuals and the work they do. Accordingly I am currently heading initiatives for elevating their status, especially of those who are sole advocates of vulnerable people, to enable them to speak openly about their needs and concerns with a free voice.

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