The advocacy service provided by the Trust changes to suit the times, but the consumer remains at its heart, says Napier-based advocate and learning coach Louise Grant. “As long as I keep the consumer at the centre of my practice I’m doing well,” she says. Louise divides her time between advocacy/education and as a learning coach to new advocates. New hires are put through three months of orientation and induction, with support from peers and more experienced advocates. Extended modules and further training are also possible.

“It’s a tailored programme for our needs and practice. We’re there for every health and disability service consumer in the country and our service is ever-evolving.” Health and disability service providers are now reflecting on their experience during the COVID-19 response, and what the ‘new normal’ will look like. Some, such as disability vocational services, may not be offered in the same way.

Louise says she’s having conversations with providers about what they have learnt, what changes they may make, and considering how this will affect consumers. During the COVID-19 lockdown, advocates also had to adjust to a new way of working. “We used rapid response to address the immediate needs of those who were vulnerable or at risk, while managing expectations for other, less urgent enquiries,” she says. Phone calls with providers are now being considered for some situations where it would help achieve an effective and efficient resolution of complaints.