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A tribute to one of our volunteer advocates

Fiona has worked with Advocacy Plus for about 5 years

She was initially pointed in our direction by Cllr Cristobel Flight, who recognised her qualities of assertiveness, tenacity and fairness as crucial to the role of advocacy, and hence valuable assets for vulnerable older people in Westminster.

Fiona has undertaken a remarkable range of casework: an elderly Somali couple who complained of rat infestation in their WCC home; the errant former colonial judge, returned to UK and seeking to obtain social housing for himself and his wife with dementia whilst omitting to mention the various other properties abroad which they owned; the grieving widow seeking to have a decision on her late husband's eligibility for NHS continuing care retrospectively back-dated; the West End resident who found drinkers at the neighbouring pub blocking her street entrance on summer evenings. Whilst I rarely saw her flummoxed by bureaucratic processes, I sensed for her the fascination of the work was in this very rich and unpredictable array of desires and aspirations, terrors and foibles which drove some of her peers to seek advocacy. They themselves with their stubborn hopes and dreams and awkward sticking points are the most eloquent answer to why we do this work, why it is right for some people, like Fiona.

Fiona's empathy with her clients' difficulties and her commitment to achieving a humane outcome for them have been outstanding and I have always sensed that her unwavering focus is the client's wellbeing. At the same time Fiona is realistic and has sometimes had to call it a day without achieving what the client wanted. This is the reality of advocacy. We put our foot in the door, we shove, but sometimes it doesn't budge. The trick is to finish the case with the client satisfied that our best effort has been put into resolving their problem, irrespective of the outcome.

Because Fiona was so transparently on the side of her clients and so firm about sticking to the issue of the case, clients found it easier to understand when the time came to finish our involvement - though many were keen, of course, to come back for more once they had experienced real advocacy!

Along with her casework Fiona has also helped educate the community about the needs and issues of older people by, for example, speaking with social work students and attending consultation events on behalf of Advocacy Plus. We would love Fiona to give us some occasional help on this front, so we hope she won't mind if we call on her from time to time when we have an interesting invitation to hand.

We know Fiona has many commitments and interests. She is a superb example of an engaged, vibrant older person making the most of what this phase of life offers. We thank her for her great contribution to older people in Westminster and to Advocacy Plus - and we wish her success in whatever she undertakes, some adventures along the way, and the satisfaction of knowing she has helped a good many of her fellow Londoners to be more secure and comfortable in this hurly-burly, rushed, relentless city of ours.