Advocacy and Advocates
“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 schemes work in partnership with the people they support and take their side. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice.” (The Advocacy Charter, 2002).
The Care Act places a statutory duty on all local authorities to involve people in decisions made about them and their care and support, for people to be active partners in the key care and support processes of assessment, care and support planning, reviews and safeguarding. No matter how complex a person’s needs, local authorities are required to help people express their wishes and feelings, support them in weighing up their options, and assist them in making their own decisions.
Therefore if you qualify under certain aspects of the Care Act, Mental Health Act or the Mental Capacity Act you can have access to help from an independent advocate. A social care worker will identify whether you meet the qualifying criteria.
An advocate is a person who supports you and helps you to explain and say what you want. They help you to ensure that your views are heard, so that your problems can be sorted out.
- Help you to put your views and feelings across about decisions that are being made about your life.
- Speak on your behalf if that is what you want.
- Help you make a complaint.
- Give you information and advice about your rights and any worries you have as well as help you make choices about what is best for you.
The Care Act states that the individual should be enabled to be the leader in any process they are involved in with regard to their care and support, the ultimate aim is for people’s wishes, feelings and needs to be at the heart of planning and designing their care and support and any safeguarding process they are involved in.
The duty to involve the individual applies to all settings, those living in the community, in care homes and in prisons.
To facilitate the individual’s full involvement the local authority should first meet its duty under the Equality Act by ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to reduce or remove any substantial difficulty a person may have, which may include the appointment of an independent advocate.
The role of the independent advocate is to support and represent the person to facilitate their involvement in the key processes and interactions with the local authority and other organisations as required.
The Care Act places a statutory duty on all local authorities to involve an independent advocate if the following conditions are met:
- If an advocate were not provided the person would have substantial difficulty in being fully involved in key processes.
- There is no appropriate individual available to support and represent the person’s wishes who is not paid professionally, engaged in providing care and treatment to the person or their carer.
In order to be able to support people to express their wishes and feelings or represent their views, advocates will need to spend time with them and build up an understanding. It will support those at greatest need who have difficulty in understanding information, retaining that information, using and weighing that information and in expressing their wishes and feelings. It will be provided free of charge providing a person meets the statutory eligibility criteria described above. This could apply to any adult and older person, any carer, young people in transition from Children's Services to Adult Services and young carers.