Advocacy helps you to explain your views and concerns, use information and services and look at your options. An advocate is someone who gives support to people. They are independent of social services and the NHS, and they are not a family member or a close friend.
How do advocacy services work?
Advocacy services are independent, which means they don’t work for councils, or the NHS and they are free from any conflicts of interest. The role of an advocate is to assist you and ensure that you have the confidence and skills you need to voice your concerns or ask relevant questions about your care.
When might someone need an advocate?
You may need an advocate if Mental Health Issues are being suggested when you actually have or may have MCAS or if you have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. You may also need an advocate if you have difficulty understanding relevant information, retaining information or using/weighing information, for example being able to see the advantages or disadvantages in different options.
What can an advocate do for me?
The role of an advocate depends on your situation and the support you want, but they are there to support your choices.
An advocate can:
An independent advocate can support and empower you to speak up for yourself, or to speak up on someone’s behalf. The support of an advocate is often particularly useful in meetings when you might not feel confident in expressing yourself. They can:
If you find it hard to understand or communicate your care and support needs, for example because of your physical or mental health, an advocate can support you to explain your views to other people. They can also act to make sure your rights and needs are respected so that you can live as independently as possible
What an advocate will not do:
They will not give you their personal opinion.
They cannot solve problems or make decisions for you.
They will not make judgements about you.
What are some examples of advocacy?
Advocacy is a broad term that covers a wide range of different activities. As an example, parents often advocate for their child’s needs at school.
Formal individual advocacy involves supporting people to exercise their rights and often goes through organisations like government agencies or non-profits.
Does advocacy cost money?
Advocacy services are usually free of charge, depending on what help and support you need. There are separate advocacy services that offer support for carers, which are independent from the NHS Trust and their service is free.
Do I have a legal right to an advocate?
In some cases, you may be legally entitled to a professional advocate, such as
An Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)
An independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
A social care advocate
How your local council can help
Your local council has a duty of care and will provide you with an advocate if you have difficulty understanding and/or remembering information, communicating your views or making decisions. The level of support that your council provides, may depend on whether you have family or friends to help you.
Statutory advocacy means a person is legally entitled to an advocate because of their circumstances. This might be because they're being treated under the Mental Health Act or because they do not have the capacity to make their own decisions.
Advocating for Others:
When supporting others through advocacy, it is important to ensure you also look after yourself. You can do this by:
What questions should I ask my advocate?
It is important you feel comfortable with your advocate and feel able to talk about your situation. You may find it helps to talk to your advocate about what you do – or don’t want them to do. It may also be useful to put together a list of questions to ask them, such as:
Where can I find an advocate?
You can find professional advocacy services across the country, with charities and organisations offering independent advocacy and support services. We have provided details for some of these below:
Contact social care services at your local council and ask about advocacy. Find your local social care services here.
POhWER offers independent advocacy services throughout England. They work with people living with autism, physical disabilities, sensory impairment and mental health conditions. You can call POhWER’s support centre on 0300 456 2370 for advice.
The Advocacy People is an independent charity which provides a range of services across the south of England for those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries and mental health conditions. You can call 0330 440 9000 for advice or text PEOPLE to 80800 and someone will get back to you.
RETHINK provides support to those with mental health conditions who may need assistance in making informed decisions and getting access to the services they’re entitled to.
Contact your local Age UK to see if they have advocates in your area. Visit Age UK online or call 0800 055 6112.
MindOut offers advocacy for all LGBTQ+ people who haved lived experience of mental health issues.
Health Advocacy UKoffer a free 30 minute advice call.
Advocacy Focus have an online self help toolkit.
You can find a full list of resources and available advocacy services here.
Everyone has the right to be respected and to have a say on the issues that shape their lives.
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