Extending a hand of friendship

Cupar  ;'Alex Davidson and Ali Millican  , IncludeME staff'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON
Cupar ;'Alex Davidson and Ali Millican , IncludeME staff'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

A CITIZEN advocacy project in north east Fife is seeking to recruit kind-hearted volunteers who want to help make a difference to the lives of 
vulnerable people.

Cupar-based includeME! is holding its annual meeting on Tuesday, July 16, and hopes the event will attract people who feel they may have what it takes to enrich the lives of others by giving them a voice in their community.

Part of a Fife-wide advocacy network, includeME! was founded in Cupar about five years ago and since then around 24 successful partnerships have been formed between volunteers and people with learning disabilities.

However, under a re-organisation of advocacy services by Fife Council, the charity’s remit has been broadened to include anyone over 16 who needs help and support to safeguard their needs and interests, whether they have physical or learning disabilities, mental health issues or are vulnerable for other reasons.

New Scottish Government legislation that changes the way in which people receive social care also brings with it fresh challenges, and short-term advocates are also needed to help clients access the benefits and services to which they’re entitled.

Ali Millican, who recently took up the post of senior development worker at the charity’s base in Tom Rodger’s Mill, said: “Being a citizen advocate can be hugely rewarding and often it is really simple things that most of us take for granted that can significantly enhance the lives of vulnerable people.

“Citizen advocacy really does change the way communities work by making sure everyone feels valued and that they have something to offer.”

She continued: “To be a citizen advocate you don’t need any formal qualifications, though often our volunteers have an understanding of the difficulties some people face.

“Volunteers are expected to attend two preparation evenings before we begin the careful matching process, which is done very carefully to make sure the partnership is successful.

“The time commitment isn’t huge, but the advocate is there to help their partner overcome the barriers they may face so is expected to keep in regular contact. Many of our partnerships have gone on to become solid and lasting friendships.”

The AGM of includeME! will be held in the Old Parish Rooms, Cupar, at 6.30pm. For more information, visit www.includeme.org.uk.