Meet the Team
There are over 60 people in the Advocacy Focus team, including operational staff and management, advocates and volunteers, who offer wide and vital support.
Here are introductions to some of our team:
Leadership and Operational Team
Justine Hodgkinson – CEO
Justine joined the Advocacy Focus team as Chief Executive Officer in 2014 at a time of real change affecting the delivery of advocacy services. Committed to helping commissioners meet and exceed their statutory advocacy requirement, Justine is spearheading major developments in the sector.Read more
“I moved from working in the private sector to the social/Third Sector about 15 years ago, realising that my real motivation for work was to reach out to the most vulnerable sectors of society, those people who are isolated socially or, because of their disability, don’t have a voice.
My first role in the social sector was as a residential social worker, working with children and young people and their families – this was real hands on ‘coal face’ work and opened my eyes to the needs which some children and their families have, and the challenges they face everyday
From this I was lucky enough to work for Booktrust, a national charity whose aim is to transform children and their family’s lives through improved literacy and access to books. I started as a regional development manager before taking on the national early years role and within 6 years was head of the universal Bookstart programme. During my tenure I developed the Bookstart Corner programme which aimed to tackle social exclusion through improved literacy. We were thrilled when the programme won a Nursery World Award for our work with parents.
I joined as CEO of Advocacy Focus at the end of 2014 at a time of great legislative changes in the way that advocacy is delivered. At Advocacy Focus we have embraced those changes, restructuring our service delivery and making sure that everyone in the team is fully trained and ready to take on the extra responsibilities required by the new legislation. Pivotal to this has been our person centred approach to working with our clients.
Advocacy means the most vulnerable people have someone in their corner to empower them to have a voice. I know from my own personal experience when my mother was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, how hard it is as a lay person to work through the minefield of legislation and protocols to access the appropriate services and support at what is, by definition, an incredibly stressful time for everybody concerned. Had I known that advocacy support was available to me at the time and what that support could achieve, it would have made a significant difference to my Mum and to our family.
I look forward to continuing my work with the great team here at Advocacy Focus delivering independent, person centred advocacy which provides practical support for vulnerable people when they need it most.”
John Hutchison – Operations DirectorRead more
“Before joining Advocacy Focus I worked in sales and marketing as a sales director for a business travel company so in making a move into advocacy I was very consciously choosing to use my skills in a different way.
I was heavily influenced in my choice, of course, by the fact that my partner works in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health and also my daughter is a Community Mental Health Nurse, so you could say that working in this sector runs in the family!
At Advocacy Focus our advocates come from a range of different backgrounds – many do have a mental health and/or social sector background but it is important that people on our team have a broad range of work and life experience and we often take on people from the private sector who possess an abundance of transferable skills and a positive attitude towards working in Mental Health.
Many of the communication and empathy skills which make a good sales and marketing professional are incredibly valuable for advocacy. In advocacy you have to be able to communicate with many different types of people, from the service user to health and social care professionals and also with our partners and commissioners. Having an intuitive empathy and understanding of other people, and the ability to communicate this in a compelling way is a key part of our everyday work. I joined the team as an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) and benefited from extensive training to broaden my skills and experience across all elements of advocacy, before being promoted to Advocacy Manager. I immediately enjoyed working in advocacy and found a level of job satisfaction that was missing from my time in the private sector.
The role of Advocacy Manager was created as part of a wider reorganisation within Advocacy Focus and my job involves developing relationships with our partners and commissioners, managing the advocacy team and looking at our broader strategy to develop the advocacy service we deliver to expand into new areas.
I have managed teams in many of the companies I have worked for and have always been mindful of the need to encourage my employees to build in stress relief strategies and activities in their lifestyle. I choose to regularly beat the life out of my drum kit with the band I play for as my stress buster, and that has been a great way to maintain work life balance for me throughout my career! We have a great team of people here at Advocacy Focus and some very exciting plans to continue to develop our Advocacy services over the coming months and I’m really glad to be on board and looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Leanne Hignett – Service Delivery Manager
As Service Delivery Manager, Leanne ensures that we deliver high quality equitable and accessible advocacy services throughout our contracted areas. Leading and managing the Advocacy Team, she is passionate about providing a caring and supportive service, Leanne ensures our commitment and quality in advocacy is second to none. Read more about Leanne’s background and experience below.Read more
“I am a trained and experienced Independent Mental Capacity Advocate and have experience in advocating on behalf of individuals who lack capacity in relation to specific decisions under the Mental capacity act. I am also a qualified social worker..
“My passion is to ensure that service users’ voices are heard, ensuring individuals are aware of their rights and they are upheld. Above all my main focus is to support individuals to have choice and control over their own care and support.”
Lauren Lovelace – Volunteer Manager
Lauren joined the team as an IMCA and was appointed Volunteer Manager in August 2015. Today, Lauren is responsible for steering the development of the volunteering strategy and recruits, trains and manages the broad team of volunteers working with Advocacy Focus.Read more
“I love being Volunteer Manager at Advocacy Focus and making the most of volunteer involvement. Before joining Advocacy Focus I gained lots of experience in volunteering, delivering over 1000 hours for Home Start as a Family Support worker, for Night Safe working with homeless young people and also as a volunteer at Lifeline – a young person’s drug and alcohol organisation.
“While at Lifeline I was seconded to the Blackburn YJS (Youth Justice Service) and also worked my way up from volunteer to practitioner as a drugs worker and Domestic Abuse Lead and then to Volunteer Coordinator. I have also worked with young people at Blackburn College, providing Additional Learning Support.
“For me, all my hours of volunteering really paid off as it has allowed me to gain confidence and experience of different types of work, make a wide range of new contacts and also to get a clearer idea of where I wanted my career to go.
“Volunteering is really important to Advocacy Focus and our volunteers are integrated across the business, with different skill sets from IT and administration, to fundraising, to marketing and promotion as well as working alongside the advocates, providing signposting for service users to the kind of support they are able to access and, where appropriate, referring service users to direct advocacy support.”
Lisa Crossley-Haworth – IMCA
Lisa is one of two Senior Independent Mental Capacity Act Advocates (IMCAs) at Advocacy Focus. Trained to Masters level in social work, after spending time working with Advocacy Focus, Lisa opted for advocacy as her vocation.Read more
What made you choose to follow advocacy as a career rather than social work?
After completing my Masters in 2012, I did take up a job in social work but having got under the skin of advocacy while at Advocacy Focus I quickly realised that advocacy was, for me, a much more rewarding career. In advocacy you are always on the side of the service user, helping them to understand the situation they are in, the choices available and helping them to find their voice to uphold their own rights. Seeing clients develop in confidence and skills to be able to self-advocate, I found to be empowering and motivated me in role.
Also having been so well supported at Advocacy Focus by colleagues and staff, both in ongoing training as well as more informally with a positive and encouraging culture, I knew that working for this company would be my dream job.
Becci Jackson – IMCA
Becci Jackson is also one of two Senior Independent Mental Capacity Act Advocates (IMCAs) at Advocacy Focus. Heading up the IMCA team, Becci is based in the Leyland office and is a newly promoted member of the team, having been an IMCA advocate for over two years.
Farqan Amin – IMHA
Farqan oversees the Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy (IMHA) team at Advocacy Focus, ensuring all our specialist IMHAs provide the quality support we have become known for. The IMHA team is a specialist team who provide an additional safeguard for patients who are subject to the Mental Health Act 2007.
Tasneem Patel – ICAA (Care Act)
Tasneem is our Senior Care Act Advocate (ICAA) and manages the Care Act Advocacy team. Tasneem also works to raise awareness of Care Act Advocacy and plays a key part in the training of volunteers and employees; keeping up to date with changes in legislation and ensuring practices and standards are consistently met.
Keith Cocker, Chair
Keith joined the board of trustees of East Lancashire Advocacy Service (now Advocacy Focus) in 2004 and has been Chair since 2008. He has an MA (Hons) degree in History from the University of Cambridge, and has a postgraduate Research degree in History from the University of Manchester.
Keith is Senior Partner in Development Alternatives, a consultancy practice that works with businesses and organisations in the UK and Internationally to help them achieve organisational and individual high performance.
Through his career, Keith has accumulated extensive experience in operational and executive roles and has worked with boards and exec teams to implement major change and align corporate strategy with people development and management.
Outside of the corporate world, Keith is a great supporter of the arts.
Denise Bond, Secretary
Denise has been a Partner in Accrington based Acklam Bond Solicitors since 1991 and specialises in general civil litigation. She joined the board of trustees in 2012.
Outside work Denise helps raise money for research into childhood cancers and loves holidaying in France.
Chris Southworth, Trustee
Chris has been a mental health social worker since 1991 and currently works in the regulation of health and social care services. Chris joined the Advocacy Focus board of trustees in 2012.
As a social worker Chris worked for a number of local authorities across the North West and she also worked as a University lecturer, teaching on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Chris has been a governor at a local primary school for many years and is also a Hospital Manager with Greater Manchester West NHS Trust.
Simon Burrows, Treasurer
Simon is a barrister with Kings Chambers, specializing in social care and mental health issues and sits as a Judge in mental health cases.
He is also a regular lecturer and writer on mental health and mental capacity issues and brings an invaluable breadth of experience to the trustee team. Simon joined the Advocacy Focus trustee board in 2014.
Michelle is an Employment Partner at Berg law firm in Manchester and practices exclusively in employment law and civil litigation.
Her primary focus at Berg’s is in acting for owner managed companies and SMEs but she also has considerable experience in representing senior executives at Board and FTSE 250 level. Michelle joined the board of trustees in 2014 and is a very valuable addition to the team.
Graham is the owner and managing director of moose media management ltd, a social media agency based in Hyndburn.
He first came to Advocacy Focus as a volunteer to help others and give back to society. He regularly is seen at local networking events and in his spare time is spent playing cricket. Graham joined the board of trustees in 2016.
Alan manages his own company, Civil Development Society, providing consultancy services, training and facilitation to the not for profit sector in UK and overseas. He has worked in the charity commission for over 30 years and specialises in areas of trustee governance, risk management and tendering.
Alan joined the board of trustees in 2016.