In an ideal world no one would need advocacy support; people would speak up for themselves and be listened to and those who were unable to speak up for themselves would have their rights upheld as a matter of course.

Sadly, we are not in an ideal world – yet!

Everyday independent advocacy plays a vital role in ensuring people have their rights upheld and their feelings and wishes heard.

Legislation gives people the right to advocacy in certain situations and anyone at anytime may find themselves in need of independent advocacy support: a young mother with post natal depression detained under the Mental Health Act; a child in the looked after system miles away from their home; a young man with learning difficulties financially abused and neglected by his family; an elderly lady with dementia who wants to go home from hospital.

It doesn’t matter who the person is; everyone is treated with the same dignity and respect by the independent advocate. The advocate will work alongside the person to identify what is important to the person and what their feelings and wishes are. Independent advocates ensure people are given information on their rights and support to explore their options and choices. Independent advocates work skillfully to ensure that the person is able to stay in control and central to all decision making processes. Independent advocates will also challenge when outcomes don’t go the way the person wanted or when processes aren’t followed properly.

So how does an Independent advocate do all of this… its simple! We find out what the person’s issue is and their desired outcome. Then we create a plan with the person looking at different options and choices the person has and who else may be able to help them. Let’s put this into practice using the few examples given previously.

Natalia’s son is six months old. Ever since he was born, Natalia compared herself to other first time mothers. Everything she did she felt was not good enough and she started to withdraw from spending time with her son. Natalia’s feelings escalated and she disclosed to her health visitor that she had feelings of harming her son and had started harming herself.  Natalia was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for a period of assessment. Natalia had support from an Independent Advocate who explained Natalia’s rights under the Mental Health Act. The advocate supported Natalia to understand her rights to appeal her section including asking for a Hospital Managers Review. Natalia was able to work with her Responsible Clinician to be discharged into the care of a mother and baby unit where she was supported to develop a loving relationship with her son.

Julian became open to a Child Protection plan after he was found wandering the streets late at night and his parents were not home when he was returned home. At the age of ten years old, Julian was placed in short term foster care which was 80 miles from his home. An independent advocate worked alongside Julian to gather his feelings and wishes and represent his views at the Child Protection Planning and Review meetings. Julian’s advocate helped Julian to move to a short term foster placement closer to his home so he could return to his school and friends.

Lucas is a young man with the label of a learning disability. He attends college with support and has a support worker to take him out at the weekend. Lucas wears soiled clothes, is always hungry and never has access to any money when his support worker takes him out. His support worker raises a safeguarding alert because she knows that Lucas receives benefits and should have his own money and believes he isn’t receiving appropriate care and support at home. Lucas has an Independent advocate to support him through the safeguarding process. The advocate spends time with Lucas at his home, in college and with his support worker. The advocate learns that Lucas likes to live at home with his family but would like to be able to buy things including new clothes and the odd cinema trip. Lucas would also like to learn to cook his own food. The advocate explained what happens during the safeguarding process and supported Lucas to attend his own meeting. The advocate supported Lucas to have enough time to tell the social worker what was important to him. The social worker then arranged for Lucas to have a review of his care and support and for his parents to have access to a carers assessment. Lucas went on to have some extra support in his home to help him cook tea and manage his own money.

Betty has a diagnosis of dementia and recently had a fall which resulted in a broken hip. Betty spent quite a long time in hospital and missed her beloved pet cats tremendously. When it came time for Betty to be discharged she was assessed as needing care and support and lacking capacity to decide how and where her care and support needs could be met. Betty didn’t have any family so an independent advocate was tasked with finding out Betty’s feelings, wishes, values and beliefs to ensure that any decisions taken on Betty’s behalf were in her best interests. The advocate met with Betty in hospital and discovered Betty’s love for her cats and that prior to Betty’s fall, she had one call a day from a support worker to help her in her home. The advocate spoke with staff on the ward, Betty’s support worker and the social worker. The advocate represented Betty’s feelings and wishes and Betty was able to return home to her cats with three calls a day from her support worker to enable her to live safely in her own home.

Across the country, throughout our communities advocates work with individuals from all backgrounds regardless of status and situation to help voices be heard and counted.

If you would like to find out more about independent advocacy, maybe you would like some support or you would like to become an advocate for other people – get in touch.

You can call us on 03003 038 037 or visit www.wearepeoplefirst.co.uk/ to find out more.