The Advocacy Action Alliance is a source of news, resources, standards and discussion for advocacy providers in England and Wales

What is advocacy

Independent advocacy is about speaking up for an individual or group. Independent Advocacy is a way to help people have a stronger voice and to have as much control as possible over their own lives.

 Advocacy is typically about:
 
  • Safeguarding people who are vulnerable and discriminated against or whom services find difficult to serve.
  • Empowering people who need a stronger voice by enabling them to express their own needs and make their own decisions.
  • Enabling people to gain access to information, explore and understand their options, and to make their views and wishes known.
  • Speaking on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves.
Advocacy in day to day practice involves:
 
  • 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 choices 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  
Advocacy is not about:
 
  • making decisions for someone
  • mediation or counselling or befriending or consultation
  • 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.
The core requirements for advocacy, for advocacy providers and advocates are set out in the Advocacy Charter 
 

Types of advocacy

There are different types of advocacy. There is no one best model of advocacy, no ‘one size fits all’. The most appropriate model for any individual is likely to depend on their preferences, circumstances and situation and this may vary from time to time. In practice the general models of advocacy available are: 

Professional advocacy which can be provided by both paid and unpaid advocates.  An advocate supports an individual to represent their own interests or represents the views of an individual if the person is unable to do this themselves. They provide support on specific issues and provide information but not advice. This support can be short or long term.

Another model of one to one advocacy is Citizen Advocacy. Citizen advocacy happens when ordinary citizens are encouraged to become involved with a person who might need support in their communities. The citizen advocate is not paid and not motivated by personal gain. The relationship between the citizen advocate and their advocacy partner is on a one-to-one, long term basis. It is based on trust between the advocacy partner and the advocate and is supported but not influenced by the advocacy organisation.

Peer advocacy is also individual advocacy. Peer advocates share significant life experiences with the advocacy partner. The peer advocate and their advocacy partner may share age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis or issues. Peer advocates use their own experiences to understand and have empathy with their advocacy partner. Peer advocacy works to increase self-awareness, confidence and assertiveness so that the individual can speak out for themselves, lessening the imbalance of power between the advocate and their advocacy partner.

Group or Collective Advocacy enables a peer group of people, as well as a wider community with shared interests, to represent their views, preferences and experiences. A collective voice can be stronger than that of individuals when campaigning and can help policy makers, strategic planners and service providers know what is working well, where gaps are and how best to target resources. Being part of a collective advocacy group can help to reduce an individual’s sense of isolation when raising a difficult issue. Groups can benefit from the support of resources and skilled help from an advocacy organisation.

Self-advocacy

The aim of all models of advocacy is to help individuals gain increased confidence and assertiveness so that, where possible, they will feel able to self-advocate when the need arises.