An 'advocate' is the title of a specific person who is authorised or appointed (in some way) to speak on behalf of a person in a legal process.
Advocacy IS about helping you to speak up for yourself, to make sure that your views and opinions are heard and understood. If you find it hard, or you are unable to speak for yourself then you may find an 'Advocate' who can help you.
An advocate should be free from conflicts of interest with those providing services to the person they are working with and should represent the other person's interests as if they were the Advocate's own.
Do you have something to say? Would you like help to say it?
There are five main ways you can do so. You can:
- Talk for yourself. (Self advocacy)
- Ask a volunteer to talk for you
- Ask a legal expert, such as a solicitor, barrister or legal advice worker. They can also speak for you at a tribunal or in court. (Legal advocacy)
- Join a group. The group can work together to support and speak up for you and other people who have similar concerns. A group can express your point of view in places such as committees, forums and meetings
- Ask a person who has had a similar experience to you to talk for you (Peer advocacy)
Advocacy is NOT:
- Being a friend or counsellor
- Persuading the person to agree with others
- The Advocate deciding what is in the person's best interests
- Complaining - Advocacy is not an alternative complaints procedure but may involve the Advocate in supporting the person in making a complaint effectively
- Campaigning - although it may highlight problems and gaps in particular services
- Providing social support - for example managing someone's financial affairs or organising transport or shopping
- Interpreting for a person whose first language is not English
- A mediation service. There are mediation services available
- A long term service (except for Citizen Advocacy – see types of advocacy above)
After an advocate has worked with you on your particular worry, you should feel that your views have been heard.