Giving a voice to some of Blackpool's most vulnerable residents

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Having someone on your side can be life-changing.

Which is why Blackpool charity Empowerment is making a real difference in the town by ensuring the voices of the most vulnerable are heard.

A message from one of the children

A message from one of the children

These range from children living in the shadow of domestic abuse to residents left isolated by their mental health needs.

In 2019 the organisation marked 10 years since it formally became an advocacy charity - and this year it has also been chosen by Blackpool Mayor Coun Amy Cross as her mayoral charity.

A number of services are based at its hub on Bispham Road including Healthwatch, the Den which is a meeting place for young people and Motivate2, an advocacy service for people with mental health and learning disabilities.

The aim is to "journey alongside" clients by helping them take control of their lives rather than to take over.

Mike Crowther

Mike Crowther

Chief executive Mike Crowther says involving people in decisions about their futures is the best way of helping them.

It's a principle reflected in the motto - 'No decision about me, without me".

Mike said: "Empowerment is about people taking control of their own life and then going out to help other people as well.

"If your voice is not being heard and your rights are being denied, then we are on your side."

Among the adults who need a voice are people with severe mental health issues, learning disabilities and dementia as well as some with physical disabilities.

He added: "We have some brilliant public services in Blackpool and some of the finest doctors and nurses, but if someone doesn't have the confidence to speak up for themselves, they don't get the service they need.

"But we don't want to do it for them if they can do it themselves, that's the empowerment.

"However at the beginning of the journey,they might need our help."

One section of society the charity particularly focuses on is children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

The Den has been designed as a meeting place and somewhere to relax and feel safe.

Mike said: "There are children living in households where there is violence day in, day out.

"That leaves children feeling isolated, scared and lonely and that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

"We have staff who work with children on a one-to-one basis but there is also a big emphasis on having fun together and making friends.

"At the end of it, we want the child who is very often coming from a dark place to be a happy confident person.

"The team works mainly in schools but the Den is their safe place."

One of the other main streams of activity is Motivate2 whose volunteers have all experienced mental health issues themselves and have trained as volunteers to help others in the same situation.

They offer advocacy and support, working in locations including The Harbour mental health facility in Blackpool.

Mike said: "It has given volunteer opportunities to people who may have been written off in life, and they are giving something back to people in a similar position.

"This also means people are more likely to open up. Sometimes they don't want to leave the house or have been sectioned.

"They have to trust us and know we are on their side."

Mike says they are delighted to have been chosen as the mayor's charity for this year which is helping to fundraise and raise the charity's profile.

Coun Cross said: "Empowerment has been an inspiration to me personally and to many others.

"It is a local charity based in my ward that supports and advocates on behalf of a number of vulnerable individuals, not least those with mental ill health, dementia sufferers and our older generation.

"Unlike so many other charities, they are small and operate locally.

"As we know people with mental ill health in Blackpool need our support and anything I can do to help and raise awareness must be a positive thing."

Empowerment receives funding from sources including Blackpool Council for statutory services such as Healthwatch.

Other funders include the National Lottery Community Fund, Children In Need, the Tudor Trust and other donations.

Annual turnover amounts to £700,000.

It grew out of an international citizen's advocacy movement which began in the 1960s, with a Blackpool Advocacy Charity being founded in 1999.

Empowerment developed from that and has been based on Bispham Road since 2014.

Between 2009 and 2019 it has supported 3,179 children and young people living in Blackpool.

Joy’s Story

I joined Motivate 2 in April 2019 after a friend told me about the project starting up.

I was looking for a safe place to volunteer where I could use my skills and knowledge to help others.

For many years I worked full time in a responsible job but due to mental health difficulties had to give up employment.

I spent a long time in hospital and was fortunate to have an advocate support me when I felt the medical staff weren't listening to me.My advocate spoke up on my behalf and put forward my wishes and feelings about my situation.I didn't feel ready to work full time again and felt that volunteering part time would help me to get back on my feet and give me an opportunity to help others who may be experiencing difficulties.

The staff at Empowerment have been very welcoming and supportive and I have been able to develop new skills and gain confidence in working with people again.

For me being in Motivate 2 is like being part of a second family. I have made great friends and have had many opportunities to take part in community events such as taking part in world mental health

day, giving out information and having conversations about mental health with shoppers in the Houndshill shopping centre.

I volunteer for as many hours as I feel comfortable with and I never feel pressured to do more than I'm happy with.

How to get involved

Call 0300 3232100 (local rate) or go to www.empowermentcharity.org.uk