The Importance of Independence & Confidentiality
“Advocacy is taking action to help people to 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
Independent Advocacy supports people to have a strong voice in key decisions that affect them and to have as much control as possible over their own lives.
“Medical and Social Services professionals can undermine patients and their relatives and treat them inhumanely. However, I now feel supported, as advocates listen to me and my father unlike other professionals at the hospital and Social Services.” DF
Advocacy organisations are separate from organisations that provide other types of services. An independent advocate will help the person to get the information they need to make real choices about their circumstances and supports the person to put their wishes and preferences across to others. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice and challenges poor and discriminatory practice. The advocate is trained, independent and the service is free of charge. An advocate might help the person access information they need; go with them to meetings, appointments or interviews, in a supportive role; write letters on the person’s behalf; or speak for the person in situations where they don’t feel able to speak for themself. Advocates work closely to the Advocacy Code of Practice.
Independent Advocacy is
- about standing alongside people who are in danger of being pushed to the margins of society
- about standing up for and sticking with a person or group and taking their side
- a process of working towards natural justice
- listening to someone and trying to understand their point of view
- finding out what makes them feel good and valued
- understanding their situation and what may be stopping them from getting what they want
- offering the person support to tell other people what they want or introducing them to others who may be able to help
- helping someone to know what options they have and what the consequences of these choices might be
- enabling a person to have control over their life but taking up issues on their behalf if they want you to
- look at alternative means of communication
- uphold the person’s human rights
Independent Advocacy is not
- making decisions for someone
- taking action which the person hasn’t agreed to
- advice giving
- care and support work
- telling or advising someone what you think they should do
- solving all someone’s problems for them
- speaking for people when they are able to express a view
- filling all the gaps in someone’s life
- acting in a way which benefits other people more than the person you are advocating for
- agreeing with everything a person says and doing anything a person asks you to do
Non-Instructed Advocacy to People who lack Capacity or have Profound Communication Difficulties
An independent advocate may speak on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves. If a person lacks capacity or has such profound communication difficulties that they cannot tell an advocate what they want in life, then they are additionally marginalised and have a greater need for independent advocacy. The role of the advocate in such a situation would involve gathering as much information about the person and their past and present wishes (if appropriate) as they can. This may be from family, friends, care staff and other people involved in that person’s life. It is important to acknowledge that a person’s capacity can vary from day to day depending on their condition or the issue with which they are dealing. An advocate will try to ensure that their advocacy partner understands the situation as best as possible and support them accordingly.
The advocate would use their common sense, the Principles and Standards contained in the Advocacy Charter 2002, the Code of Practice, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, The Care Act 2014 and any other relevant legislation or policy to help them think about enabling the person to have the best life possible.
Advocacy in such situations would be called non-instructed advocacy:
“Non-instructed advocacy is taking affirmative action with or on behalf of a person who is unable to give a clear indication of their views or wishes in a specific situation. The non-instructed advocate seeks to uphold the person’s rights; ensure fair and equal treatment and access to services; and make certain that decisions are taken with due consideration for their unique preferences and perspectives.” (Henderson, 2006)
Friends, family or health or social care staff, can all be supportive and helpful – but it may be difficult if the person wants to do something they disagree with.
Health and social services staff have a ‘duty of care’ to the people they work with, which means they can’t support a person in doing things that they think will be bad for them. Their advice, decisions and help are often based on their beliefs, experiences and sometimes personal agendas, which they use to influence and in some cases actually make decisions for you.
An advocate is independent and will represent the person’s wishes without judging or giving their personal opinion. Advocacy in Barnet believe that people are the expert on their life and it is the person’s view of what they wish to happen that our advocates will act upon.
Any information you give to us is not passed on to a third party without your agreement. The only time we would break this agreement is if we believe that you or someone connected to you is at significant risk. We would always tell you about this before taking any action.