Advocates see gaps for adults at risk

A merger of two organisations working to protect the interests of adults with intellectual disabilities will provide stronger support for people at risk from abuse, harm and neglect. The merger will also build pressure for a mechanism to safeguard adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

In 2019 the Personal Advocacy Trust (PAT) and the Safeguarding Adults from Abuse (SAFA) collective joined forces to strengthen the advocacy and safeguarding services on offer to adults. The merged organisation is called the Personal Advocacy and Safeguarding Adults Trust (PASAT). Since January 2019, PASAT has had enquiries or referrals from 50 adults at risk. Its role is well articulated by its new Māori name, Te Kahu Haumaru – the Cloak of Safety – gifted by the mana whenua of Wellington Te Āti Awa Taranaki whānui.

Erika Butters, PASAT National Advocacy Director, manages the advocacy side of the organisation, which now includes short-term advocacy and supported decision-making among the services it offers.

Sue Hobbs, Safeguarding Adults National Director, manages the safeguarding response, which now extends beyond Auckland, and has widened to include services alongside advice.

Erika says adults at risk are often invisible, but the new organisation will be able to gather evidence of support needs to take to Government. “The partnership has broadened the scope to do more, to help more. The trustees are not looking for business opportunities, they are recognising the need and responding to need,” she says.

PAT was established in 1967 by families supported by IHC who wanted to ensure the wellbeing of their disabled family members once parents had died. The organisation has recently been restructured from having a largely volunteer workforce to one employing professional advocates and ensuring quality and consistency of services. PASAT employs 13 advocates.

Lifetime membership and advocacy is funded by the payment of fees. Short-term advocacy is paid for by the person who has requested it or, if a disabled person or family cannot afford to pay, through philanthropic funding. Supported decision-making, at present offered in the MidCentral District Health Board region through the Mana Whaikaha disability support system prototype, is funded by the Ministry of Health.

SAFA started in 2010 and came out of the self-advocacy organisation People First New Zealand, and later broadened its scope to include any adult at risk. Sue Hobbs says its merging with PAT has allowed the collective to move from solely offering advice to being more responsive. “We are now able to provide a service to people.”

Its integrated response to safeguarding adults at risk was honed in Auckland in 2016, working with Waitematā Police and the Waitematā District Health Board. During a six-month pilot project 40 adults were removed from unsafe situations and connected with support and services.

Aside from continuing its work in Auckland, PASAT is working in partnership with Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Taranaki to deliver a SAFA service in Taranaki. There is also a safeguarding response in MidCentral as part of Mana Whaikaha. Sue says in 2020 PASAT will continue to work with adults at risk in situations that may include anything from financial abuse to family violence. “We are not a crisis response organisation. We are there to work with police and other agencies as appropriate,” Sue says.

Funding from the IHC Foundation supported the redevelopment of PAT and the subsequent merger of the organisation with SAFA.


Photo credit: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read the full issue of Community Moves online here.