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Community / Advocacy contract changes hands again

THERE is set to be another change in the provider of advocacy services for Shetland.

The new contract has been awarded to VoiceAbility, which has bases in Scotland and England.

It said it will have an advocate who can provide face-to-face support in Shetland – usually in the form of a home visit, if that is what the person prefers.

The company already has links to Shetland given that it provides a service supporting disabled people to access Social Security Scotland benefits.

It comes after the Shetland advocacy service was somewhat controversially handed over to an England-based company in 2022 after a local advocacy organisation folded.

Advocacy Shetland, which was based in Lerwick’s Market House, had previously provided the service.

But the service was dissolved in 2022 and the contract was handed to the Advocacy People, an independent charity based in Hastings.

At the time there was concern raised about the service – which is contracted out by the council – being delivered remotely and not in person.

Advocacy is about giving a person support to have their voice heard. The service is particularly important for vulnerable people, dealing with a range of issues including questions about care.

Shetland Islands Council’s adult services (learning disability and autism) manager Clare Scott said: “The council has recently completed a procurement exercise for provision of independent advocacy and a new contract has been awarded starting in early July.

“In the meantime, The Advocacy People will continue to deliver this service, to support any eligible vulnerable individuals who use council and NHS Shetland services.”

VoiceAbility Scotland operations manager Emily Johnston said: “We’re really looking forward to supporting people in Shetland, using our experience of providing local advocacy services in other areas of Scotland to ensure residents’ voices are heard and their rights respected.

“VoiceAbility is already working in Shetland, as part of our work providing a national independent advocacy service to support disabled people to access Social Security Scotland benefits.

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“We will continue to have a dedicated advocate working in Shetland, and through this new contract we’ll be able to provide a wider range of advocacy support to residents in the way they would like – whether that’s face to face, over the phone or online.

“While we’ve already established relationships with organisations like the Living Well Hub and Anchor for Families, we’re keen to work with community partners and support networks across the area to reach as many people who need our services as possible.

“People can contact us for advocacy support in Shetland from Monday 1 July, but in the meantime please do visit our voiceability.org website to find out more about the work we’ve been doing in Scotland.”

The contract – worth more than £190,000, excluding VAT – recently went out to tender again as the previous one had come to an end.

The latest contract has a maximum period of 45 months.

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