Here are some of our most Frequently Asked Questions.
How can I find my local independent advocacy organisation?
You can use the SIAA Find an Advocate map to locate organisations who are in your area and groups that they work with.
If you are not able to use this directory, please phone the SIAA on 0131 556 6443 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they can give you more information about what independent advocacy provision is available in your area.
Who can use independent advocacy?
The right to independent advocacy for those with mental disorders (including learning difficulties and dementia) or who are at risk and in need of support is enshrined in Scottish legislation.
Access to independent advocacy varies in different parts of Scotland. Many independent advocacy organisations are only funded to work with specific groups, so check details on the SIAA’s Find an Advocate directory or contact your local advocacy organisation.
Can someone who cannot instruct an advocate have advocacy?
Yes. This is called non-instructed advocacy.
Non-instructed advocacy happens when a person who needs an independent advocate cannot tell the advocate what they want. This may be because the person has complex communication needs or has a long-term illness or disability that prevents them from forming or clearly stating their wishes/desires. This usually takes place with people who have dementia or profound and/or severe learning difficulties.
Do I have to pay for an independent advocate?
No, independent advocacy is free. It is funded by local authority and NHS. Referring an individual to independent advocacy does not incur any cost.
What does ‘independent’ mean?
To ensure that advocacy is as free as possible from conflicts of interest advocacy organisations should only provide services that complement or do not conflict with the advocacy role.
The Principles and Standards definition of ‘independent’ refers to an advocacy organisation that is structurally, financially and psychologically separate from service providers and other services.
Structurally — an independent advocacy organisation is a separate organisation in its own right. For example, they are registered as a charity or company and have their own Management Committee or Board of Directors. Everyone involved in the organisation recognises that they are separate and different from other organisations and services.
Financially — an independent advocacy organisation has its own source of funding that does not cause any conflicts of interest and that does not compromise the work it does.
Psychologically — Everyone involved in the organisation knows that they are only limited in what they do by the principles of independent advocacy, resources and the law. It is important to recognise that although there may be conflicts of interest present, psychological independence is vital.
What are the different types of advocacy?
There are a number of different types of independent advocacy. These are:
One-to-one or Individual Advocacy
This includes professional or issue-based advocacy. It can be provided by both paid and unpaid advocates. An advocate supports an individual to represent their own interests or represents the views of an individual if the person is unable to do this themselves. They provide support on specific issues and provide information but not advice. This support can be short or long term.
Another model of one-to-one advocacy is citizen advocacy. Citizen advocacy happens when ordinary citizens are encouraged to become involved with a person who might need support in their communities. The citizen advocate is not paid and not motivated by personal gain. The relationship between the citizen advocate and their advocacy partner is on a one-to-one basis and is normally but not always on a long-term basis. It is based on trust between the partner and the advocate and is supported but not influenced by the advocacy organisation. The advocate supports their partner using their natural skills and talents rather than being trained in the role although they should have access to relevant training where appropriate.
Peer advocacy is also individual advocacy. Peer advocates share significant life experiences with the advocacy partner. The peer advocate and their advocacy partner may share age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis or issues. Peer advocates use their own experiences to understand and have empathy with their advocacy partner. Peer advocacy works to increase self-awareness, confidence and assertiveness so that the individual can speak out for themselves, lessening the imbalance of power between the advocate and their advocacy partner.
Group or Collective Advocacy
Collective advocacy enables a peer group of people, as well as a wider community with shared interests, to represent their views, preferences and experiences. A collective voice can help reduce an individual’s sense of isolation when raising a difficult issue. A collective voice can be stronger than that of individuals when campaigning and can help policy makers, strategic planners and service providers know what is working well, where gaps are and how best to target resources. Being part of a collective advocacy group can help to reduce an individual’s sense of isolation when raising a difficult issue. Groups can benefit from the support of resources and skilled help from an independent advocacy organisation.
Who funds independent advocacy?
Under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, Health Boards and Local Authorities have a duty to fund independent advocacy.
Many Health Boards and Local Authorities also fund independent advocacy for people other than those affected by the Mental Health Act. Other funders include the Scottish Government, the Big Lottery, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland and a number of small Trusts and Foundations.
How can I complain about the support I have received from an independent advocate?
Your independent advocate should have given you a copy of the organisation’s complaints policy at the start of your advocacy partnership that will explain who you should contact about your complaint. If you do not have this information, then you should contact the organisation to find out about their Complaints Procedure.
The SIAA does not have a regulatory role and is unable to investigate any complaints you may have about an advocacy organisation. If, when you have made your complaint to the advocacy organisation and have gone through their complaints process, you are unhappy with the outcome you can take your complaint to the NHS and Local Authority funders. If you are still not satisfied you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
If you can’t find the answer you are looking for, please send us a question via our Contact Us page or give us a call on 01738 587887.