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Self-advocacy for carers


Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up for yourself and your needs. It includes accessing the information you need, understanding your rights, and making decisions about your needs.

Why is self-advocacy important for carers?

As individuals, we are experts in our own lives, therefore, we ought to be included in any decision-making or actions that involve us. This is also true when you are advocating on behalf of the person you are caring for – you are aware of their day-to-day needs, wants, and likes so you ought to be involved with any decisions or actions relating to them.

When would I use self-advocacy?

Self-advocacy is used in every area of your life where you may feel you are not being heard, or you would like to be able to communicate clearly and concisely your needs and wishes. You can use it at work, in a setting like a bank, when meeting with professionals, and in a medical setting.

You can practice in everyday situations, the more you do it the more natural it will feel, your confidence will increase, and you will feel listened to.

How can I be confident in self-advocacy?

You can become more confident in self-advocacy in many ways, and this can be explored in session 4 of the Carers First Caring Confidently series. However, here we would like to share our top 5 tips in gaining confidence as a carer when dealing with professionals. 

Having knowledge or information about the situation or action will enable you to tell yourself that you can talk clearly about what you would like, and have the knowledge to understand your situation and the available options. 

When engaging with professionals or those who would like to make decisions with you, having as much information as possible about the situation or issue is important. Carers have told us that they often don’t understand enough information about professional services, like adult social services, or where to find this information.

Thinking about

  • Who will I be speaking with? Will it be just one person or a group?
  • Would I like to have someone with me?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting/contact?
  • What would I like to say? What am I happy to achieve as an outcome – what can I be flexible with or change?
  • What information do I need?
  • What will happen after the conversation?

Listening is important as it will help you build a relationship with the person you are talking with, allowing you to gather further information and understanding. 

  • Take your time to focus on what they are saying to you, asking them to repeat anything that has not been understood or explained clearly.
  • Perhaps repeat to them that you have heard to ensure you understand what has been shared.

Negotiation and assertiveness are all about getting to an agreed outcome that is important to you. When thinking about negotiation, take some time to think about what is important to you and what is least important to you. This will support any discussions around allowances that may need to be made. Being informed will support any discussions around options and outcomes

At times it may feel frustrating when negotiating or perhaps when services are unavailable–and emotions cannot be turned off. When we learn how to control our emotions it supports the conversation to remain focused and achieve an agreed outcome. If you feel a conversation is becoming emotional you are ok to ask for a break to refocus and reflect.

Along with these suggestions we have created a guide to self-advocacy for carers to use when preparing and planning their conversations and meetings, this guide includes tools and planning pages to support you as a carer.

Self Advocacy Toolkit
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