INDEPENDENT ADVOCACY: Purpose, principles, access and involvement

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Individuals that are receiving care services may not always have the knowledge, understanding or confidence to ensure that their voice is heard when decisions are being made about them.

To promote and uphold such an individual’s rights, independent advocacy services may be used.

An advocate is someone that speaks up for an individual and ensures that their views and wishes are taken into account. An advocate will only have the best interests of the individual in mind and so should not have an existing relationship with the individual that could create a conflict of interest.

An advocate’s remit is to establish the needs, wishes and preferences of an individual by communicating with them and identifying what is important to them. They will then ensure that these views are expressed whenever the individual is unable to do it themselves as well as keeping the individual informed of what is happening.

The Care Act 2014 puts a responsibility on local authorities to provide an individual with an independent advocate in certain situations such as when they are being assessed for services, when their care plan is being reviewed or there is a safeguarding issue. To be eligible for an advocate, an individual must be deemed to have ‘substantial difficulty’ in being fully involved in the process without one and there should be no other individual such as a friend or family member that can undertake this role. Paid professionals that work with the individual such as support workers may not take on the advocate role.

‘Substantial difficulty’ is defined as being unable to understand or retain information given, being unable to weigh up the information given or being unable to communicate their views.

As well as statutory advocacy provided by the local authority, an individual may wish to engage an independent advocate to support them in other areas of their lives. There are many organisations that provide advocacy services, some specialising in particular groups such as individuals with learning disabilities or mental health conditions. The local authority should be able to supply a list of advocacy providers and charities such as MENCAP and MIND can also offer advice and services.