What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is great.

Advocacy is a way of getting help in speaking up and being heard.  When we need support from health and care agencies, it can sometimes feel overwhelming, confusing and even frightening to have to navigate the ‘system’ alone.  An advocate is there to ‘walk’ alongside you and help you to make decisions, express these choices and be involved when decisions are being made.

Advocacy in its broadest sense can be undertaken by any person and is often a part of health and social care roles.  Social workers for instance need to advocate for the children and families they support by listening to their needs.  Parents are also good examples of advocates as they often need to ‘stick up’ for their children and promote their rights. However there are differences between the type of generic advocacy undertaken by any person and the type of specialist advocacy provided by an Independent Advocate.

Independent Advocacy is concerned with working from a person led perspective. The person is always in control of the advocacy process, including terminating it.  This means that an independent advocate:

  • Will always plan from the person’s definition of the problem

  • Will always work towards whatever outcome the person wants

  • Will provide access to information to enable the person to make their own decision

  • Will help the person to explore their options - without bias

  • Takes action to promote and protect the person's legal human rights

  • Recognises the person as having the most specialised knowledge of their life, views, wishes and feelings

 

An independent advocate does not:

 

  • Seek to influence the person’s decisions, or persuade them to take /not take, a particular course of action

  • Take a view of the best interests of the person,  

  • Take a view of the best interests of any third parties, (service providers, carers etc.,)

  • Counsel, advise or mediate

  • Withhold information from a person

  • Make decisions on behalf of a person without checking out with them what they want to happen

If you are looking for a formal definition of advocacy, the Advocacy Code of Practice offers the following:

 

Advocacy is taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need. Advocates and advocacy providers work in partnership with the people they support and take their side. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice.

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