Independent Advocacy

What is an independent advocate?

An independent advocate is someone who supports you to say what you want to say, or will say what you want to say, when you are not able to do so. An independent advocate is someone who works for, or volunteers with, an independent advocacy organisation.

Independent Advocacy includes:

  • Safeguarding people who are vulnerable, discriminated against or whom services find difficult to serve
  • Empowering people to express their own needs and make their own decisions
  • Enabling people to express their own needs and make their own decisions
  • Enabling people to get information, explore and understand their options, and to make their views and wishes known
  • Speaking on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves

What can an independent advocate help you with?

People have an independent advocate for all sorts of reasons and an independent advocate can help you with a number of different issues, such as:

  • a meeting with the social work department.
  • a GP or health appointment
  • a housing issue
  • a benefits assessment

What an independent advocate cannot help you with

An independent advocate will help you to access information but their role is different to an information or advice worker.
For specialist information they might accompany you to see a specialist worker such as a welfare rights worker or housing advice worker.

An independent advocate would not advise you on the best course of action, but would explore with you the possible outcomes of any choice you make.

They would stand alongside you, to support you in the choice that you make. An independent advocate is not impartial as they are on your side and so the role is different to that of a mediator.

Who can get independent advocacy?

Anyone with a learning disability, dementia, mental health problem (for which a medical diagnosis is not required) or an acquired brain injury has a legal right to independent advocacy. For anyone else, your access to independent advocacy will depend on what is available in your area. Independent advocacy organisations work with a range of people, for example, older people, people with a physical disability, adults at risk of harm, or children and young people. You can find out what advocacy is available in your area by checking the directory of advocacy organisations on the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance website or by contacting them on 0131 524 1975.

What are the different types of independent advocacy

The main types of independent advocacy you are likely to come across are:

Independent professional advocacy

Independent professional advocacy can be provided by a paid employee or a volunteer, it can be short term or long term, and it might be for a single issue or for a number of issues.

Citizens advocacy

Citizens advocacy is most commonly available for people with a learning disability and is a long term one to one relationship.

Collective advocacy

Collective advocacy is a group of people who share a common issue, for example a mental health problem, and support each other both as a group and individually, and the group might campaign on specific issues.

What to do if your independent advocate is refused entry

There are several pieces of legislation and guidance accompanying legislation which means, in certain situations, an independent advocate cannot be refused entry to a meeting.

There are other situations where it would be considered very bad practice for an independent advocate to be refused entry. Most independent advocates have experience of being refused entry and will know what to do in such a situation.

What to do if you are not happy with the independent advocacy you receive

Each independent advocacy organisation will have its own complaints procedure. Normally you would write to the manager in the first instance and, if you were not satisfied with the outcome, you could then write to the management board.

If you were still not satisfied, you would then send your complaint to either the Local Authority or NHS board, depending on who funds the organisation. Whilst the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance can provide information and advice, it cannot deal with complaints about individual organisations.

Is independent advocacy regulated?

The Principles and Standards for Independent Advocacy and Code of Practice for Independent Advocacy set the standard for independent advocacy in Scotland.

They are available on the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) website and all members have signed up to them. Any training is delivered by independent advocacy organisations, but a requirement of the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance membership is that the training is based on these principles and standards.

Find your local advocacy service

Disability Information Scotland

Contact our helpline on 0300 323 9961 for information on finding your local advocacy service or search our Scottish Disability Directory

Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA)

They promote, support and defend the principles and practice of independent advocacy across Scotland. SIAA provide information on advocacy and an online directory to find your local advocacy organisation.
Telephone: 0131 524 1975


Information last updated on 17 May 2022. Please note that information may be subject to change. All information is provided in good faith but Disability Information Scotland does not endorse any product or service referred to within this resource.

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