What is advocacy?
Advocacy means to speak up for someone. Most of us at sometime in our lives speak up for others or hope that someone will speak up for us when we need support.
There are some groups of people who may need more help than others. This is particularly the case for people with learning disabilities because they are at risk of being ignored. Sometimes we have lots of problems understanding what they are trying to tell us if they do not use words.
Advocacy is about making things change because people’s voices are heard and listened to.
It’s about making sure that people can make their own choices in life and have the chance to be as independent as they want to be.
With professional or representational advocacy it is about another person (an advocate) making sure that a person with a learning disability is not being ignored because they need some help to make sure that they are heard. Advocacy is about putting a person back in control of their own life.
Pictured above are self advocates from Our Way in Kidderminster at a meeting with the candidates to be their MP in the general election in May 2010.
What an advocate does:
- An advocate works to make things happen and change
- An advocate helps people to make choices and take more control of their own life
- An advocate works for everyone to have equal rights
- An advocate tries to make sure that people with a learning disability are not left out and lonely. They should have the same chances as everybody else to be included in their community
- An advocate helps people to say what they want and makes sure that the voice is listened to and answered
What an advocate does not do:
- An advocate is not a referee in a dispute or argument
- An advocate does not take the control away from the person they are advocating for by persuading them into his/her way of thinking
- An advocate does not take over the role of a Social worker or a nurse or a care worker either, or make up for gaps in services that should be provided. There is no right kind of advocacy and there are many different ways it can be offered
People are very different and may need different types of advocacy at different times in their lives. We need to make sure that there is choice that suits the differences of the people who want what advocacy has to offer. In that way they will gain the most from it
What is common to all types of advocacy is that the person who it is for (in this instance the person with a learning disability) is always at the centre of the advocacy process. It is all about what that person wants, and finding the best way of getting that across to the people who need to know.
Advocacy can be like tools in a tool box, the different types can be used together or separately depending on the job that needs to be done.
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