5.11 Different roles: Advocacy
Advocacy involves enabling people to:
- express their views
- access information and services
- obtain their rights and exercise their responsibilities
- explore choices and options.
Advocacy is, of course, not new. However, it has a particularly important role in personalisation because, if people are genuinely to exercise self-determination and choice, they need to be able to make their views heard.
Unless people are supported to access the services they need, personalised services risk being only available to the most articulate, confident and well-informed citizens (Rummery et al., 2012).
Some people, including people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, have legal rights to advocacy services. However, the Social Care (Self-directed Support) Act 2013 does not include a right to advocacy services. What it does say is that local councils must tell people about independent advocacy services and how to get advocacy support if they think the person will benefit from this.
The next activity is an opportunity to find out more about what advocates do, and the difference they can make to people.
Activity 5.8 Advocacy
Read some of the advocacy stories on this page of the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance website. There are accounts relating to both children and adults:
Use your learning log to note down your answer to this question:
What might be the benefit of advocacy to someone who is directing their own support?
Of course, the benefits described in these stories, and others that you will have noted, will be individual to people's particular circumstances. But you will have probably identified some common themes. Advocacy can enable effective communication with large bureaucratic organisations to secure services. It can also help to protect carers from additional anxiety and frustration, as one of the authors points out:
I attempted to deal with and get services and help for my wife and myself alone. I am afraid I failed drastically as much as we tried to communicate with health professionals and other organisations it felt like no one was ever listening and the stress of it was affecting my ability to care for my wife .
Advocacy can also result in increased confidence and self-reliance - and the potential for people to feel more able to represent themselves in the future, as this parent, whose son was living with relatives, emphasised in her story:
Advocacy gave me the courage that I didn’t have by myself. ..I know that I can go back to my lawyer anytime I need her and she was really nice. I would know where to go for help and that’s something I’ve learned...
A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC, 2009) concluded that advocacy is an essential element in the personalisation of health and care services. However, there are concerns that independent advocacy services are at increasing risk, especially if there are continuing cuts to third-sector funding for these services (Musselbrook, 2013). The EHRC warns that a lack of access to advocacy could heighten inequalities between those service users who are able to represent themselves (or pay for this service), and those that lack the capacity or confidence to do so.