Peter Dawson is one of the most experienced and respected independent advocates in the UK. He shares his considered personal views below.
Do you know the River Manifold? It is a beautiful, fresh, clear river which springs out of the strong, stark hills of the Peak District just north west of Buxton. Alongside the lovely Manifold are the equally remarkable rivers Dove and Dane.
They all come from the same source but it is the Manifold that intrigues me. You may be familiar with her at Ilam, where she runs through a piece of landscape marked on Ordnance Survey maps as “Paradise.”
Or equally you may know her from the Manifold Valley. A walk along the old narrow-gauge railway track is accompanied by her quiet beauty. But it is the river Manifold’s ability to disappear and re-emerge that fascinates me.
True Advocacy is a bit like this. The independent, free-flowing advocacy which emerged in the U.K. came from the solid rock of Humanitarianism, Egalitarian principles and outrage against discrimination and marginalisation. Advocacy shot out of this hill with other streams such as Citizenship and The Social Model of Disability.
Over the years following its emergence Advocacy became a strong force seeming to go where it wanted to and needed to rather than being directed or forced into a channel of others’ making. Just as the River Manifold has.
More recently, however, what occurred is that the powers that be have made strenuous efforts to culvert and redirect advocacy into passageways, pipes and trenches that are intended to suit their purposes more than those of the people which Advocacy sprang out of the hills to serve: powerless, marginalised and forgotten members of society.
True advocacy, however, goes underground. I believe this has occurred, or will do, as more and more of the existing advocacy gets less and less independent.
I am convinced that sometime in the future the need for “our” sort of advocacy, fresh, sparkling, landscape-shaping and uncontrollable will re-emerge in new and unexpected places
"I am convinced that sometime in the future the need for “our” sort of advocacy, fresh, sparkling, landscape-shaping and uncontrollable will re-emerge in new and unexpected places"
Peaks and Dales Advocacy is taking its beliefs and principles into the work we are currently doing: the projects described elsewhere. The need for truly independent advocacy has not gone away and the impetus and pressure for it to exist is just as strong and getting stronger. Meanwhile we will offer informed choice and empowerment in whatever we do.
Back to the beginning of these musings. The rivers Dane, Manifold and Dove all find their way to bigger rivers and eventually to the sea. True Advocacy and those other forces for positive change will find their way into bigger rivers and eventually into the sea.
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