Being the Boss as an organisation has been largely about offering peer support and information to employers of Personal Assistants. Over the last year the Directors of BTB have discussed developing specific service projects around both advocacy and training.
With the worsening living conditions for disabled and elderly people we believe there’s an increasing need for independent advocates capable of supporting people through benefit claims and appeals, alongside care package reviews, etc. Our aim is to develop peer group advocacy through training and practice however this would require funding and that is our priority at the moment.
The nature and function of advocacy is often misunderstood or muddled with other forms of support, so below is a simple guide.
There are many different types of advocacy, including:
“I have seen in my many years working in self-advocacy that when people with learning difficulties move into self-advocacy they can move away from the family because they start to have more of a voice.”
Co-production workshop participant
Self-advocacy refers to an individual’s ability to effectively communicate his or her own interests, desires, needs and rights. It recognises that people are experts by experience and involves them in speaking out for themselves about the things that are important to them. It means that people are able to ask for what they want and need and to tell others about their thoughts and feelings.
The goal of self-advocacy is for people to decide what they want and to carry out plans to help them get it. Self-advocacy differs from other forms of advocacy in that the individual self-assesses a situation or problem and then speaks for his or her own needs. The ultimate aim of all forms of advocacy should be to support people to self-advocate as far as they are able to.
Group advocacy involves people with shared experiences, positions or values coming together in groups to talk and listen to each other and speak up collectively about issues that are important to them. These groups aim to influence public opinion, policy and service provision. They vary considerably in size, influence and motive.
Representatives of local groups are often included on planning committees and involved in the commissioning and monitoring of health and social care services.
Peer advocacy refers to one-to-one support provided by advocates with broadly similar impairment related needs or experience to a person using services. Trained and supported volunteers often provide peer advocacy as part of a coordinated project. Peer advocacy schemes argue that they are particularly well placed to empathise with the needs of people, to approach them as their equals and to feel strongly about, and fight hard for, their needs.
Citizen advocacy aims to involve people in their local community by enabling them to have a voice and to make decisions about the things that affect their lives. Citizen advocacy partnerships are long term, not time-limited, and last for as long as the citizen advocate and the individual want them to. Citizen advocates are ordinary members of the local community. They are unpaid and usually operate with support from a coordinated scheme.
Paid independent advocates support and enable people to speak up and represent their views, usually during times of major change or crisis. Such advocacy is issue-based and the advocate may only need to work with the person for a short time.
There are four recognised approaches to non-instructed advocacy and providers should endeavour to integrate them all when providing support:
•rights-based approach – we all have certain fundamental human rights that can be defined and measured
•person-centred approach – based on the development of long-term, trusting and mutually respectful relationships between advocates and people
•watching brief approach – placing the person at the centre of thinking about the best way to support them
•witness/observer approach – in which the advocate observes or witnesses the way in which a person leads his or her life.
It is important to remember that an individual’s capacity to be involved in decision-making or to instruct an advocate may fluctuate. This provides a further argument in favour of a whole-systems approach to advocacy, which maximises the chances of continuity of support.
Meet the team.