What is Advocacy

What is Advocacy?
Is it what you think it is?

Advocacy is a way of making sure someone’s voice is heard when a decision is made. It involves looking at choices, enabling people to know their rights and helping to defend those rights. Advocacy helps people to speak up – on their own OR with help. It makes sure people’s interests are heard directly or are represented. We talk about independent advocacy because it is important that advocates are independent of the organisations that are providing services. Being independent helps make sure that everyone has an equal chance to make their voice heard. Advocacy is not: befriending, counselling, an advice service, providing social support or deciding what is in a person’s best interest.

A Definition of Advocacy
What the Advocacy Charter says

“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)

About Us
What we are all about

On April 1st 2015, after nearly a year of careful planning, Advocacy Support, Leeds Advocacy and Advocacy for Mental Health & Dementia came together as a single organisation. On that date the three organisations merged with Advonet, a separate organisation which was previously co-managed by the three organisations as partners.
Between April and October, the new organisation consulted with people who use our services, staff and stakeholders on their priorities for the ‘new’ Advonet. Together, we have created a organisation that combines each of the existing partners’ expertise to provide an even more exceptional advocacy service. We relaunched the ‘new’ Advonet on October 2nd 2015.

When is advocacy useful?

Formal meetings and procedures often make people feel that they need support to speak up effectively

Advocacy is useful when:

  • Others seem to have more say about your life than you do
  • Others are making decisions for you – but you do not feel involved
  • You cannot get what you want
  • Life seems out of control
  • You do not feel that you can speak up for yourself.
Our new Advonet services
  • Leeds Single Point of Access for advocacy
  • Independent advocacy in any setting in the city of Leeds for adults who experience mental distress, including dementia
  • Independent advocacy for people with learning difficulties
  • Statutory Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA), a service for eligible people detained under the Mental Health Act
  • Statutory Independent Mental Capacity Act (IMCA) Advocacy
  • Statutory Care Act Services
  • Culturally sensitive, bilingual advocacy and practical support available in a wide range of community languages to support all black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, providing access to health, social care, benefits and housing services, debt support and financial inclusion through drop-in sessions and community surgeries
  • Mentoring and other support for people with autism via the Autism Hub
  • Leeds Independent Health Complaints Advocacy (LIHCA) which provides advocacy for people wanting support with NHS Complaints
  • Supporting the Leep1 and Articulate Advocacy community interest companies (CIC)
Types of Advocacy

Traditionally advocacy comes in two broad categories, self advocacy and representational one-to-one advocacy. Certain types of advocacy may be appropriate according to different times and circumstances in people’s lives.

The following types of advocacy are provided by Advonet:

Representational One-to-One Advocacy:

One to One
Statutory Advocacy (IMCA, IMHA, IMCA DoLS)

Self Advocacy

Citizen (Volunteer) Advocacy
Peer Advocacy
People First

Representational One-to-One Advocacy

One-to-One Advocacy

An independent organisation with the knowledge of the different agencies within the legal, health and welfare systems. They also recruit advocates who use their skills and expertise to represent another person’s interests and help to assist that person to get their point across more effectively.

This service may be provided by an independently paid professional or by volunteers with relevant training and/or experience. This type of advocacy is common to all client groups and occurs when one person speaks up on another’s behalf. An advocate stands beside the advocacy partner and focuses on seeing things from that person’s perspective. The advocate is not there to represent their own views but to represent the advocacy partner’s interests as if they were their own. An advocate does not make judgments about what is in a person’s “best interest”. An advocate will always encourage a person to speak for themselves where ever this is possible.

One-to-one advocacy can be:

  • Short-term, ‘issue – based’ advocacy. In general it means that advocacy intervention is offered to address a specific issue or situation and is not intended to be ongoing but will exist for the time it takes to resolve the issue.
  • Crisis advocacy – this is about providing advocacy support as soon as possible to deal with an urgent situation. For example someone experiencing mental distress has a problem with housing which left unresolved may result in them becoming homeless.
Statutory Advocacy

Certain people have a legal right to advocacy under the Mental Health and Mental Capacity Acts. This is intended to provide extra safeguards for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

For further information please follow these links:

IMCA

IMHA

Self Advocacy

Citizen (Volunteer) Advocacy

This is when an unpaid, trained volunteer member of the community, with the support of an independent organisation, represents the interests of another who is disadvantaged and/or socially excluded. This commitment can be time limited to assist a person in dealing with a specific issue, decision or crisis.

However it is often a longer-term commitment where an advocacy relationship can grow in order to combat the discrimination and social exclusion experienced by the Advocacy Partner.

Peer Advocacy

Peer Advocacy refers to ‘experts by experience’, and is used to describe advocacy relationships where both the advocate and the advocacy partner share similar experiences, difficulties or discrimination. This could include people with a learning disability, mental ill health, the elderly or people from minority ethnic groups.

Peer advocacy is often spontaneous where groups of people are together, for example in residential homes, hospital wards, self advocacy groups, or self help groups. Often it happens because one person feels more able to speak up than their counterpart and people feel united because of a common cause. The relationship is based on mutual support and empowerment and has the added benefit of a special insight and close rapport being developed between the people involved. The primary qualification is their own experience of disability, exclusion or using services.

Some people may prefer to have an advocate who has had similar experiences; they are then supported by someone who “understands” by experience and will not be judgmental about their circumstances.

People First groups

Some Self advocacy groups are referred to as People first groups. People First is an international civil rights movement that campaigns for people with a learning disability to be treated equally and fairly. Locally they are independent groups promoting self advocacy and are run by their members. They link into, or are affiliated to, a national network called ‘People First’ to form a collective voice in order to lobby those in authority to bring about change.

Would you like to volunteer for Advonet?