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Sage Advocacy, the national organisation which supports and advocates for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, saw a record increase in requests to its support services throughout 2020, its latest annual report shows.  (see here: sage-advocacy-annual-report-2020-sl.pdf (sageadvocacy.ie) 

Sage Advocacy experienced its second highest ever number of referrals for advocacy totalling 1,248, despite severe public health restrictions which significantly impacted on its day-to-day operations.

The registered charity reached almost 25,000 people through its information channels including our website and social media with individuals seeking support or advice specifically across its Information & Support Service and its Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum during 2020.

The chair of Sage Advocacy, the Hon Mary Laffoy said the 2020 annual report highlights the growing demand for advocacy services in Ireland.

Ms Justice Laffoy said: “The mission of Sage Advocacy is to promote, protect and defend the rights and dignity of older people, vulnerable adults and healthcare patients.

“As our latest annual report shows Sage Advocacy was there to provide support and advocacy services to people at a time in their lives when they needed it most and quite often when they had no one or nowhere else to turn to.

“Whether this was supporting nursing home residents and their families, advocating for adequate home care and support to enable an older person to live in the place of their choice or supporting someone to secure a new home, Sage Advocacy was there at every step of the way for them.

“I would like to thank everyone across the public, private and voluntary sectors that supported us and assisted us to continue our important advocacy work throughout 2020”.

Sage Advocacy’s annual report underlines how older members of communities across Ireland, particularly nursing home residents, were disproportionately affected during the public health emergency.

The charity experienced a marked increase in information and support enquiries and a significant response from nursing home residents and their families to a new Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum which was established because of the public health emergency.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy said: “This increase in demand for our services was met by our team of staff and trained volunteers but there is no doubt that we could do more if we had additional resources to meet the increasing demand.

“We always want to go the extra mile and regardless of our size and funding we do go beyond and above to ensure that we are always here to provide advocacy and support when people need it most.”

The Sage Advocacy 2020 Annual Report also reflects on how the organisation had to adapt to working in changing circumstances during the 12 months.

Ms Lennon said: “So much of what we do depends on the inter-personal, the making of connections and the building of trust. The necessity to keep social distancing is challenging to that.

“Our advocates often had to establish contact with the people we support through phone, video calls or while observing social-distancing, all of which makes providing support that bit more challenging.

Our Annual Report clearly highlights the essential nature of Sage Advocacy’s work, a fact confirmed by the HSE considering advocacy to be an essential service. I want to acknowledge the commitment, dedication and skills within the organisation by its staff, trustees and volunteers which ensured that we could continue to make an impact on lives across the country.”

Separately in its latest annual report Sage Advocacy also details systemic issues of concern which it called attention to during 2020.

In February 2020, Sage Advocacy launched a discussion document called ‘Delivering Quality Medical Care in Irish Nursing Homes: Current Practice, Issues and Challenges’.

In December 2020 Sage Advocacy also published ‘Choice Matters’ - a discussion document on how the Covid-19 public health emergency had exposed how Ireland’s current long-term support and care system, with its high reliance on residential nursing homes, was “totally inadequate” to safeguard vulnerable, older people.

Ms Lennon said the discussion documents underline the challenges which currently exist, and which need to be addressed.

Ms Lennon added: “If the Commission on Care, which the Government committed to in the Programme for Government, was established it could immediately start examining the issues which Sage Advocacy continues to highlight.

“As a country, we need to work together to begin the long over-due process of assessing how care for older people in Ireland is provided and examine what alternatives are needed to meet the diverse needs of older people”.

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