What is an independent advocate?

An independent advocate can support you when you are dealing with difficult issues and help you to get the care and support that you need. An advocate helps to ensure that you can express your wishes and views when in contact with authorities like your council or the NHS, your legal or financial advisors and that your views are heard.

Why Independent Advocacy is important

If you are surrounded by family or professionals who all have an opinion on what care or support is best for you, you may feel powerless or unable to voice your own opinions. You may find it daunting or feel unable to influence or challenge the decisions that affect your life. If you are unhappy with the care you are getting or the situation you are faced with, you may need to challenge the individual or the organisation that is causing the problem, in order for things to change. This can be an intimidating and stressful experience.

An independent advocate can help you to overcome these challenges. They can devote time to you and be on hand to respond to changes to your needs and situation. The advocate will talk to you one-to-one and then support you to voice your views and wishes, or can express your views and rights on your behalf to those involved with your care.

In its simplest form, advocacy can mean just listening respectfully to you.

Who is an independent advocate and what do they do?

An independent advocate is someone who you have asked, or given permission, to represent you. Your advocate can be a neighbour, a friend, a relative, a volunteer from an advocacy organisation or a paid independent advocate.

What an independent advocate does An advocate will:

– help you to speak out and have your views, wishes and rights taken in to account by your family, carers or professionals when decisions need to be made which affect your life

Independent Advocate

  • make sure at each point that you have all the information you need so you can make informed decisions and choices
  • support you to voice your decisions and views or speak on your behalf.

This may include making sure your views and wishes are explained and fully considered, as well as making sure that your rights are understood and defended.

To do this, an advocate might go with you to meetings or interviews in a supportive role, make telephone calls or write letters on your behalf.

What makes an advocate independent?

An advocate must be truly independent if advocacy is to work. Some professionals, such as a social worker or nurse, may have an advocacy-type role as part of their overall job description. However, if your problem is connected to the policies or practices of social services or an NHS hospital, then it may be inappropriate for the social worker or nurse to act as your advocate.

If you are to achieve the outcome you want or have a right to, the social worker or nurse may have to ‘risk’ challenging their own manager or their agency’s practices and policies.

Some professionals may attempt to do this, but many admit that it is difficult because, ultimately, they are employed by that organisation. This is considered to be a ‘conflict of interest’, where the professional cannot fully act on your behalf as they have to be loyal to their employer.

As a result, your voice may not be heard properly.

What independent advocacy is and is not

Independent advocacy is:

  • being on your side
  • believing in you
  • speaking on your behalf or supporting you to speak
  • providing information and discussing options
  • enabling you to make informed decisions and choices
  • ensuring that your rights, views and wishes are acknowledged and taken in to account by others
  • putting aside the individual values of the independent advocate
  • exhausting all avenues to try to achieve the outcome you want or have a right to.

Independent advocacy is not:

  • influencing you to make a decision
  • making a decision for you
  • advising you on the course of action to take
  • persuading you to do what other people want you to do
  • doubting what you say or the outcome you want
  • counselling you
  • speaking for you when you want to speak for yourself.
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