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October-December 2020
Inside our latest, quarterly e-newsletter, we have updates on:
  • When we're available during Christmas and New Year
  • Our festive events
  • Our work for Advocacy Awareness Week 2020
  • Leep1's Digital Skills Survey as part of ALaDDIN
  • News of bereavements
  • Engagement work
  • Feedback from our self-advocacy event
  • An update for the Hear My Voice, Hear My Safeguarding Story project
  • Accessible information training from CHANGE
  • Our IMCA team's latest work
Christmas/New Year 2020-21 opening dates/times
During the festive period, the Advonet Group office will be closed on Friday 25th December-Monday 28th December 2020 and Friday 1st January 2021
Leep1 will be closed from Friday 18th December to Monday 4th January. They will be back open on the 5th. CHANGE’s office will be closed from Friday 25th December to Friday 1st January, whilst the Leeds Autism AIM team will be available at the same times as our advocacy services. For more info, please click on the link below.
Christmas and New Year >>
Our Leeds Autism AIM team have side-by-side Christmas and non-Christmas socials on Zoom. They are on Tuesday 22nd December from 5pm-6pm and are for autistic adults in the Leeds area. If you would like to join, please email and they will send you the Zoom details.

The AIM team have also put together a Christmas toolkit, including a 16-page info booklet with details of support and online groups available, info on shops and public transport and mental health resources. Click here to read it: 
Christmas Toolkit
Advocacy Awareness Week 2020: What we did
For Advocacy Awareness Week 2020 at the end of October, we published a series of infographics that showed how many people our services supported and what they had done during the pandemic to continue to help make clients’ voices heard.
Wendy Cork, our Advocacy Development and Partnerships Director, wrote a couple of pieces for the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) website too. Both covered the power of partnership working; one was about our entire organisation and the other used our Leeds Autism AIM service as an example.
Please click on the links below if you would like to read them.
#PowerOfPartnership - The Advonet Group >>
#PowerOfPartnership - Leeds Autism AIM >>
2019-20 Infographics >>
Sameer Sami: A Tribute

Sameer Sami, one of our long-serving Lead Advocates who worked in our Community Advocacy team, passed away in November after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Sameer had worked with us for 15 years, starting out as a volunteer with Advocacy Support. He then worked as an advocate with our Bilingual service before it merged into what is now the Community Team.
Another role Sameer held was as the Bilingual team’s Volunteer Coordinator. Many of our current staff team had been supported by him when they volunteered with us.
Sameer was a calming, reassuring presence everywhere, whether in the office, at an advocacy surgery or when meeting clients on a one-to-one basis. He leaves behind his wife and three children. He is sadly missed by all of us.
Sara Magari: In Memoriam
We also regretfully announce that one of our former Universal Advocates, Sara Magari, has died this month.
Sara had recently joined our Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) team and came to us with a wealth of experience, working with organisations such as Touchstone, Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service and Sheffield Citizens Advice.
Although she was only with us for a few months, Sara had made friends and got to know some of our team and had shown a great passion for advocacy.
A fundraiser has been set up to support Sara’s family at this incredibly difficult time; whatever is donated that goes above the target of £1,000 will go to Mind.
If you would like to donate, please go to this link:
Self-Advocacy: Video and event feedback
To coincide with Advocacy Awareness Week, we held a free online event to ask people from different communities in Leeds for their feedback on our self-advocacy work. We summed up what attendees said in a blog post and have since set up a focus group that meets every two months to help coproduce our work.
We also produced a short video explaining what self-advocacy is. You can find the video on our YouTube channel. To read the blog post and watch the video, please click on the buttons below.
Self-Advocacy Feedback >>
Video: What is Self-Advocacy? >>
ALaDDIN: Leep1’s role in digital inclusion work

Leep1 – Leeds People First have been heavily involved in ALaDDIN (Autism and Learning Disability Digital Inclusion Network), led by Forum Central. As part of that work, the Leep1 team and Jez Coram from Forum Central have put together a survey. It asks adults with learning disabilities and autistic adults in Leeds to share what their digital skills are.
The survey is in Easy Read format and online. The feedback will be used by ALaDDIN member organisations to help address needs when using digital technology. The survey can be found at the link below.

Digital Skills Survey >>
Join the Safeguarding Citizens Panel
The Advonet Group want to ensure that the Safeguarding Feedback Project is led and co-produced by the citizens that it affects. We are therefore reviewing the existing Citizens Panel membership to make sure it reflects all the groups that may experience Safeguarding. We are looking for people with lived experience in the following areas: 

•    Mental Health 
•    Older People 
•    Homelessness 
•    LGBTQ+ 
•    Physical Health conditions 
•    Sensory Impairments 
•    Gypsy/Travellers 
•    Migrant Communities/Asylum Seekers

The panel’s aims are to: 

•    Advise on questions and citizen engagement materials  
•    Receives anonymised information and help to identify key learning themes 
•    Make recommendations in relation to actions  
•    Seek assurances about actions taken

If you are interested in joining the Citizens Panel, please contact Stephanie by email at
This project has a survey where anyone who has accessed adult safeguarding services in Leeds or has worked with someone who has can feed back on their experience, saying what was good and what could improve.
To take the survey, please click here:
Making Info Accessible Training from CHANGE
In the summer just gone, Leeds Autism AIM started to run regular groups on Zoom, led by their autistic staff team. They run two peer support groups a month, as well as a monthly Women-Aligned group.
More recently, they introduced a Gaming Group on the Discord App and are trialling a Creatives Group later this month. All groups are for autistic adults in Leeds who receive little or no funded support. To find out more about their groups and how to join, please click on the link below.
Accessible Information training >>
Peter Lomas: In memoriam

Peter Lomas, a long-serving volunteer with our Asking You! team and much-loved Leep1 member, passed away in December after a short illness. Peter was a kind, gentle soul who was passionate about adults with learning disabilities being involved in services and having their voices heard.
He was a regular at People's Parliament meetings, always chipping in with useful suggestions to improve the lives of adults with learning disabilities. He was a lot of fun to work with and made so many friends.
Peter will be sadly missed by so many of us. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this very difficult time. People in Action, one of many services who worked with him, produced a touching tribute video:
Hazel Woodcock: A tribute

Hazel Woodcock, a long-standing member of Leeds Autism AIM’s Steering Group and a former member of our Board of Trustees, sadly passed away recently.
Hazel was involved with AIM from the very beginning, bringing her wealth of experience as a professional and as a parent of an autistic adult to the service. 
She was a welcome presence at every Autism Hub session she attended and volunteered at. Many of the service’s best ideas came from her brilliant mind.
As a trustee, her attention to detail and passion for the promotion of people’s rights being met shone through at every board meeting.
Hazel will be sadly missed by everyone who met her. We send her husband Paul and son Graham our warmest wishes.

IMCA team's work with care homes
Our Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) team have worked closely with Care Homes to promote and support the application of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, considering least restrictive approaches given the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions.
The team have challenged blanket policies and decision making in Care Homes, encouraging individual best interest processes and risk assessments re visits and community access during the pandemic. 
The IMCA team have also sent out letters to care homes offering guidance on the application of MCA 2005 for Vaccine-related decision making, and how advocacy can support.
Focus Group looking at coproduction
Our monthly Focus Group meeting is becoming more focused on coproduction. This includes areas such as policies, resources and training. The next three meetings are on the following dates:
  • Monday 4th January 2021
  • Monday 1st February 2021
  • Monday 1st March 2021
Each meeting will run from 2pm to 3pm and will be on Zoom. For more on how to get involved, please click on the link below.
Focus Group dates >>
COVID-19 Vaccine: Information published
Multi-Faith and Culture day educates and informs staff
After trials went well, the first COVID-19 vaccines have been issued. Forum Central have compiled information from a number of groups including NHS England and West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.
The resources include leaflets and links with information on how the new vaccines work, who will get them first, how safe they are and what to do once you have had it.
To download copies of the leaflets and read more information, please click on this link: Vaccine Information
Following on from the staff and trustees' work developing the Advonet Group’s unique Model for Inclusion earlier this year, we held a Multi-Faith and Culture day on 18th December.
This was an opportunity for staff and people who used the service to do online presentations to celebrate key events and festivals each person had missed during the pandemic. It was a chance to learn about other people’s faiths and cultures.
We found out about Sikhism, Chinese Culture and six other cultures and religions in a really personal way.
Local MPs listen to adults with learning disabilities’ parliament questions
In a Zoom meeting organised by our Asking You! team in December, some of their volunteers and other adults with learning disabilities spoke to Leeds East MP Richard Burgon. They asked him about how parliament works, following on from a previous Zoom session held with Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood.
Everyone in the meeting got to learn about how the Houses of Parliament are run and what they are responsible for. Thanks to Mrs Jenkyns and Mr Burgon for their time and for listening to our volunteers’ questions.
Advocacy Organisations Coming Together
One positive emerging from the Coronavirus is that nationally and locally, Advocacy Organisations have come together to learn from each other on a regular basis. VoiceAbility have hosted organisations meeting online every month. York Mind have hosted a series of advocate gets togethers and the Advonet Group has hosted a number of regional meetings.
All the activity has taken place online. It started off with sharing ideas and responses to dramatic changes to the health and care system caused by COVID-19 such as testing, Do Not Resuscitate orders, and blanket restrictions in care homes. Now the organisations have moved on to considering the Mental Health Act Review and how advocacy organisations themselves can counter structural racism.
This increase of collaborative working is an exciting development. Together, advocacy organisations will be more independent and more knowledgeable. Together, they can be more powerful as allies of some of the most marginalised people in the country.
Leeds Autism AIM's mental health work

Our Leeds Autism AIM team have further developed their partnership work with mental health services this year to improve access for autistic adults .This includes new work with Engage Leeds to identify and train autism champions; this well help to address people's housing needs relating to mental health.
We have also worked with NHS services to produce a new health passport, which includes a section for mental health. 
The AIM team have risen to the challenges posed by COVID-19 by with increased online peer support sessions. We have provided 78 one-to-one peer support sessions from April-December 2020 and 12 peer support groups on Zoom run twice a month since July 2020.
In addition to that, the team recently updated their Mental Health profile. It is part of their COVID-19 toolkit, which has been viewed 2,702 times since it was first published. It also contains other tools that can help autistic adults manage their mental health at this difficult time. Find their toolkit at this link: COVID-19 Toolkit
Communities of Interest rights talk
The Advonet Group continues to link to the Communities of Interest network, connecting 22 of our most marginalised communities to health and care services and key messages/themes. 
We gave a brief presentation on Rights and Legislation relating to this period during the pandemic. We will follow up with some resources for our local groups/services to help their communities understand and maintain rights during this difficult time.
12 Days of Leepmas: Members end year on song
Welcoming our new starters to Leep1 and IMHA
Staff members, volunteers and Leep1 members took part in a heartwarming singalong, putting their own spin on the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Called "12 Days of Leepmas", the song uses lyrics about the work that Leep1 have done and how they have been affected by the pandemic.
It was made using footage of a number of people singing different lines and has proved to be a hit on social media!
To watch the full video, please click here: 12 Days of Leepmas
In the past few months, a handful of new staff have joined the Advonet Group team. We welcome Annabell Newbould, a Universal Advocate who will be starting in our Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) team.
The Leep1 and Cafe Leep team welcome on board Joe Booth, Maisie Hirschhorn, Sapphire Malcolm, Courtney Williams, Jamie-Leigh Marshall, Janine Blumler and Robert Neary. They will be supporting at the Cafe and with Leep1's Abilities Not Disabilities project.
Leeds Autism AIM's Christmas 2020 Update
Leep1's latest quarterly newsletter
In addition to their monthly email updates, the Leeds Autism AIM team sent out a Christmas update, linking to their festive toolkit and useful info on what support is available this season. To read it, please click here: AIM Christmas 2020 update
Leep1's autumn 2020 newsletter is full of details about what their members have done towards the end of this year, as well as their work on digital skills and campaigning on hate crime. Click here to read a copy: Leep1 autumn newsletter
Season's Greetings from all of us at The Advonet Group and all the best for a happy, healthy new year!
News in Brief
MindWell's seasonal mental health toolkit

MindWell have put together a toolkit of resources to help people stay mentally well this winter.
It includes top tips for winter wellbeing, a Christmas toolkit and info on where to find mental health support online and offline. Please click on the button below to see it.
Toolkit >>
Mentally Healthy Leeds' festive events

For the two weeks covering Christmas and New Year, Mentally Healthy Leeds are running a series of free events for people in Leeds who have mental health difficulties.
Their festive activities include games, quizzes and card making. For more on joining, please click on the link below.
Events >>
Age UK Leeds: Digital inclusion for older people

Age UK Leeds have started a project for promoting digital inclusion for older people in the city. It aims to help them access and manage their own healthcare online.
It is for anyone over 50 who needs help with doing this. Click the link below for more on what the service offers. 
Inclusion >>

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