All people are very different from each other. Their needs for support are different, and may change during their life. A variety of advocacy has developed to recognise these differences:
All advocacy types are of equal value. What advocacy is used, and when, should depend on what is best suited to the person who seeks it. A single person may ask for different types of advocacy support at different times in their life.
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.
People with learning disabilities say that being part of a self advocacy group or getting support from an advocate is a really important part of being able to take control of their lives.
Also referred to as crisis or short-term advocacy, although there are slight differences between the three. These are forms of advocacy similar to citizen advocacy, but which focus on one issue or set of issues, and are not intended to have a long-term basis. They may be provided alongside peer, citizen, or self-advocacy to give extra support in dealing with a particular problem. The support may be needed because a lot of work needs to be done, because of a break down in an advocacy partnership, or because issues requiring special expertise arise, e.g. in law, child protection, education, housing, employment, and financial matters.
People coming together to speak up for themselves. It is what most of us do most of the time. It is the best kind of advocacy where people feel able and willing to do so. This should always be worked towards.
Many people with learning disabilities are good at speaking up for themselves. Sometimes they find it hard to get others to accept this or to listen to them.
Self advocacy groups are a good way of encouraging this. They are run by people with learning disabilities who sometimes have supporters. Self advocacy groups are often groups of people who use services or have the same interests locally. They work together to make sure they have a say in how those services are run. They are a very good way for people to support each other and they can help to build confidence so that people feel more able to speak up for themselves.
This is when the advocate and the advocacy partner share similar experiences or environments. This happens for example between children who may live together in a children’s home, those experiencing mental ill health and those with a learning disability. It sometimes means that people who have experienced the same things feel they have a better understanding and can be more supportive.
Peer advocacy happened in the past between people with learning disabilities when they were separated from others and lived in isolated hospitals. They often only had each other for company and were away from others in the community. There was no one else to speak up for them other than their fellow residents. As people with learning disabilities began to learn more about the rights and obligations of citizenship, more of them are speaking up for each other.
This is often like citizen advocacy with both partners having a learning disability and is mostly of an informal nature.
Top of the page
Generally, independent advocates are unpaid, many not taking even expenses. But volunteers are always in short supply. Where there is a huge demand, for example where a long-stay hospital closes and large numbers of people are being resettled, or where a major problem has occurred, paid advocates may be needed to deal with the situation on a temporary basis. Their role is typically a combination of citizen and case advocacy, but they will have a caseload of several clients. Ideally, once a person is resettled, the paid advocate hands over to volunteer local citizen or self-advocacy.
Volunteers developing long term relationships with people and speaking up for them. This is a partnership between two people. To try to make things clear, one is usually called the advocacy partner, and one the citizen advocate. An advocacy partner is someone at risk of having choices, wishes and decisions ignored, and who needs help in making them known and making sure they are responded to. A citizen advocate is a person who volunteers to speak up for and support an advocacy partner and is not paid to do so.
Key points about citizen advocacy are:
The citizen advocate is unpaid and independent of service providers and families and is a member of the local community
The advocacy partnership is one to one and the advocate’s loyalty is to the advocacy partner alone
The advocacy relationship is based on trust and confidentiality
The citizen advocate identifies the partner’s choices and decisions, but does not make or influence them
The partnership is long term and not time limited and lasts for as long as both partners want it to
An advocacy scheme “matches” the advocate and partner
Government policy is clear that people should be able to be active citizens and have a say about how things work where they live. It also recognises that some people need support to make this happen.
There are specific rights in law for advocacy in some circumstances:
the Mental Capacity Act 2005: this provides a statutory framework for acting and making decisions on behalf of individuals who lack the mental capacity to do so for themselves. The independent Mental Capacity advocate (IMCA) service supports people who lack capacity and who have no family or friends to support them when serious decisions are taken in their lives; and
the Mental Health Act 2007: arrangements will be made to provide independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHA) for 'qualifying' patients in England.
Top of the page