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 is most commonly available for people with a learning disability and is a long term one to one relationship.
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
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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Equality, Legal & Advocacy:Frequently Asked Questions
Through our helpline we receive enquiries spanning a wide range of different topics. Here is a selection of those most asked:
What can I do if I feel that I have been discriminated against?
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. For further information on the definition of disability, see the Equality Act Guidance.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly there a number of steps that you can take. You can speak to an advisor at an advice agency such as your local citizens advice bureau or you can call the Equality Advice Support Service (EASS) who can advise and assist people on issues relating to equality and human rights.
If you need employment advice, ACAS provide free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. You can call their helpline on 0300 123 1100.
If you can’t sort out the problem at work, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal. You should use the ACAS free Early Conciliation service before applying to a tribunal. In most cases the tribunal must receive your claim within three months of the dispute.
Making a complaint
There are several steps that you can take when making a complaint.
- Complain directly to the person or organisation. You can write a formal letter or complaint. Your letter should also say what you would like to happen next. For example: an apology; changes to the way they do things; money as compensation. You can use a template form available from the Equality Advisory Support Service.
- You can ask someone else to help you sort it out. Some mediation services offer free or subsidised mediation. Contact Scottish Mediation.
- An advocate can support you to say what you want to say, or will say what you want to say, when you are not able to do so. Contact the Scottish Independent Advocacy Service.
- Make a claim in Court. Be aware that if you do decide to make a claim in court, you need to tell the court about your claim (by filling in a form and paying a fee) within six months of what happened. Information about how to make claim in Scotland can be found on the Scottish Courts Service website.
You do not have to choose only one of these. Instead, you could try each of them in turn. You can, if you want to, make a claim in court straight away. Do think very carefully about whether making a claim in court is the right course of action for you. Making a claim may be demanding on your time and emotions, and before starting the process you may want to look at whether or not you have a good chance of succeeding.
If you need further information, or help to contact your local advice service please call our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
Equality, Legal & Advocacy:Search for Local Organisations
Our quick search tool can connect you to over 3000 service providers, suppliers and organisations supporting people across Scotland. To find support near you, simply enter your search term and select your local authority.