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Getting an independent advocate


It is not always easy to get across what you want to say, particularly in quite formal settings such as dealing with health or care professionals from the local authority. These situations can sometimes feel scary, stressful and intimidating which can make it difficult for you to say what you mean and make your case well. This is where an independent advocate can help.

An independent advocate is someone completely separate from the local authority whose role it is to be your spokesperson. They can communicate with the local authority on your behalf, either in writing, by phone or in person by attending meetings with you.

An independent advocate can support you if you feel like your needs are not being met by the local authority, you don’t understand all of the processes involved in their provision of care or you want to challenge a decision but don’t feel able to do it yourself.

They can act for you in all situations where you are dealing with the local council and you feel like you need some extra support understanding what is happening or expressing yourself. These situations can include:

Independent advocates stand up for your rights, fight your corner for you and make sure you are heard by the local authority when you can’t do it yourself. They also provide you with all the information you need and explain your options so you understand everything fully before you have to make any decisions. They make sure that the local authority is following the correct procedures and providing you with everything you are legally entitled to.

Having an independent advocate doesn’t necessarily mean that you will definitely get the end result you are hoping for. But you can feel confident that you have had the best representation, fought as hard as you can for what you want and had your voice listened to.

How an independent advocate acts and what they do to help is entirely up to you. You are in charge of the process.

Independent advocates are not there to give their own view on a situation; they should only be representing your wishes. They should not be judgmental, offer their own personal opinion or make any decisions for you. They should not try to persuade you to do what other people want you to do. If at any point you decide you want to speak for yourself instead, then your advocate should support this.

Even though they are sometimes arranged by the local authority, advocates operate entirely independently to the council, social services or the NHS. They are only on your side.

In some cases, your local authority will have a duty to arrange and pay for an independent advocate for you. This is called statutory advocacy.

For this, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You would have a ‘substantial difficulty’ in being able to act for yourself. This could be because you have trouble either understanding and remembering information, communicating your opinions and feelings, or being able to judge the pros and cons well when making decisions.
  • You do not have a suitable friend or relative who could act as an advocate for you.

If you meet both of these criteria, the local authority have a legal duty to provide you with an independent advocate.

If you are not eligible for this, you may still be able to receive support from a volunteer community advocate instead.

To find out more about getting an advocate, contact your local council and ask their adult social services team for more information about their advocacy services. If you don’t know which local authority you come under, you can find out on the GOV.UK website.

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