Volunteers are being sought to help advocate for people with mental health conditions or those living with a disability.
The South Australian Community Visitor Scheme is a volunteer-led scheme that provides independent oversight and advocates for the best possible quality of life and care for people in settings including community mental health facilities, hospitals, state-run disability services, mental health treatment centres and people living under the guardianship of the Public Advocate who are participants of the NDIS.
The volunteers inspect the services and meet and talk with clients including those that may have a mental health condition and/or are living with a disability, find out what their concerns are, and advocate for them on that particular issue.
For example, clients may have an issue regarding their care and treatment. With client consent, the visitor will communicate any issues to staff at the service to try and resolve matters.
The scheme is interested in hearing, promoting, and advocating from the client's perspective. A scheme spokesperson explained why it was important to have someone impartial to speak up for a person in such a vulnerable position.
"This independence helps build trust; the client knows that you are visiting to listen and focus on them," she said.
"Our aim as community visitors is to capture the client's voice relating to strengths, as well as service challenges and opportunities for improvement."
Community visitor Helen Jones worked as a primary and special education teacher, specialising in autism. At 65, she faced retirement, but still had the passion and energy for being involved in aspects of the work she loved doing.
"When I was ready to look into volunteering, the advertisement for Community Visitor caught my attention," she said.
Among her training and experiences she's had as a volunteer include:
- undertaking a training program to prepare her for visits to disability houses and mental health services
- observe and learn from a lead volunteer and 'buddy' on initial visits
- talk with, and listen to, clients of disability and mental health services about their experience, feelings, and issues of concern
- meet with professional staff and support workers to discuss how the service is meeting the needs of clients
- advocate on behalf of individual clients for issues and concerns which can be followed up through community visitor processes
- review and report on services visited to ensure quality standards are adhered to and the needs of clients are properly met.
"The job has been so rewarding and fulfilling. I feel I am not only using the skills and expertise built over my career but I am continuing to learn and be challenged in a way that is fun and stimulating," Helen said.
You can watch a full video of Helen talking about her experiences here.
Find out more about the Community Visitor Scheme here , email DHSCVS@sa.gov.au or phone 1800-606-302.
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