Sometimes it helps to have someone else who can speak on your behalf and represent your interests, especially in formal situations or when you don’t feel very confident. A person who speaks on your behalf in this way is often called an ‘advocate’.
Advocates can help you get your views or wish across about the issues which are important to you, such as the care or medical treatment you receive, or the management of your finances.
What does an advocate do?
The role of an advocate depends on your situation and the support you want. But they are there to support your choices.
An advocate can:
- listen to your views and concerns
- help you explore your options and rights (without pressuring you)
- provide information to help you make informed decisions
- help you contact relevant people, or contact them on your behalf
- accompany you and support you in meetings or appointments.
An advocate will not:
- give you their personal opinion
- solve problems and make decisions for you
- make judgements about you.
The support of an advocate is often particularly useful in meetings when you might not feel confident in expressing yourself. They can:
- support you to ask all the questions you want to ask
- make sure all the points you want covered are included in the meeting
- explain your options to you without giving their opinion
- help keep you safe during the meeting – for example, if you find the meeting upsetting, your advocate can ask for a break until you feel able to continue.
Who can be an advocate
Advocacy doesn’t always have to be provided by paid professionals. Often people take a friend or family member with them to important meetings with doctors, social workers or other professionals, to give them moral support and to speak up on their behalf.
If you do have a legal right to an advocate then the person who acts as your advocate could be a relative or friend whom you are happy to have to support you to speak – this person is known as an ‘appropriate individual’.
But the following people should not be considered by your council as an ‘appropriate individual’
- Someone who you do not want to support you
- Someone who is providing care or treatment to you on a professional or paid basis
- Someone who is unlikely to be able to, or available to, properly support you to express your views
- Someone who has previously been found to have abused or neglected you, or has previously failed to stop other people from abusing or neglecting you
Alternatively, there are organisations that can arrange for a professional advocate to be with you at a meeting, or to contact someone on your behalf. A professional advocate will know about your rights, and about the options which should be made available to you, and will make sure that your views are properly heard.