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What is advocacy?
Advocacy projects List

  • Advocacy is about standing up for and sticking with a person or group and taking their side.
  • Advocacy is about standing alongside people who are in danger of being pushed to the margins of society.
  • Advocacy is a process of working towards natural justice.

We all come across advocacy every day. Parents stand up for their children, children stick up for their friends. Someone who has to go to a difficult meeting or into a new situation might ask a friend to go along with them. The friend is being an advocate.

Sometimes people don't have family or friends or anyone else who can help. Sometimes they might not understand information being given to them, or options open to them. Sometimes people may not have had enough experience or may not be confident enough to have developed their own aspirations.

For whatever reason, people may need someone on their side, someone to help them stand up for themselves or who can stand up for them. When someone has no-one available to do this, and doesn't know how to go about finding anyone, an independent advocate might be able to help.

What is "independent advocacy?"

  • 'Independent' advocacy means the advocate is not connected with carers or services that have a strong influence on the life of the person being supported.

Why is independent advocacy needed?

Health or social care workers will often act as advocates for their clients or patients within the system, and family members will often act as advocates for those they care for. Sometimes however, support is needed from somebody who doesn't have to worry about other interests such as their own, their employer's, or their colleagues' - someone who can be on one side only. People who are socially isolated or who have been relying on care services often have no such support and no knowledge of how to find it. Independent advocacy is organised to minimise conflicting interests.

People need to be able to stand up for themselves. Not everyone can do that without support. Perhaps they don't have much confidence, or have become used to doing what is expected of them. Maybe they don't understand the information given to them, or have difficulty communicating. The role of an independent advocate can be to help them get their point across.

Many of those who most need support to get their point across are also those who have least confidence in their own opinions and aspirations and who may therefore be easily influenced. Independent advocacy is a good way to support people to develop their own opinions, aspirations and their confidence in these.

While legislation or inspection services are in place which are designed to prevent serious abuse in care services, this sets only very basic standards. In some services few people visit who are independent from those providing the service. Advocacy projects can ensure that ordinary community members are involved with, or know about, these services, thus making the standard of their service public knowledge and safeguarding those people who use it.

Some people have no real friendships and relationships in their life. Some people spend all their time alone, or with people who are paid to be there, or with those who use the same services but with whom they have no other connection. Some advocacy projects are set up to change this directly by linking people with ordinary citizens who can make a long term personal commitment to supporting or getting to know them and to connecting them to other friends or contacts.

Often people have an expectation that those needing support in their everyday lives will have this provided by local authorities, health services, charities, or governments. Ordinary people may not offer support until the need for this is demonstrated to them, or until they are asked. Advocacy projects or advocates can be set up to develop the ability of the community to provide such support and help.

Key Ideas for Independent Advocacy

There are lots of ways advocacy projects can be organised but good ones all have these key ideas in common:


There should be no conflicting interests which limit the action of advocates and project.

Inclusion and Respect

Advocates and those involved with advocacy projects value everyone equally and believe that the people they support should be socially included.


Advocacy is about working with people in a way that, as much as possible, helps them develop their self confidence, their own aspirations and opinions, and the skills to stand up for themselves in the long term.


It is an advocate's role to be on the side of the person they are supporting - not to be impartial.

Safeguarding Quality

Advocacy is needed because social care systems - being designed and run by human beings - sometimes let people down. People designing and running advocacy projects are human too. They have to safeguard their own standards, be aware that things in their own work might go wrong and know what to do about it when they do.

Advocacy Dilemmas

Advocacy involves issues and problems which are not easily resolved, and which may not have a "right" answer. People working in advocacy need to be aware of this and have strategies to deal with such problems.

Key Values for Advocacy Projects

However an advocacy project is organised some key values are shared by them all:

  • Everyone has the right to be listened to and feel respected
  • Everyone has the right to be involved in decisions which affect their future
  • Everyone has the right to aim for something they aspire to, even if other people don't agree with them
  • Everyone has the right to take risks
  • Everyone has the right to contribute to and participate in society

An advocate, could, depending on the type of project, make a real difference to a person needing support by

  • supporting them to become fully involved with the ordinary community
  • building a long term personal relationship with them
  • listening to them and making sure others do the same
  • helping them get involved in decisions which affect them and supporting them in making informed choices
  • helping them take ownership of the choices they have made and helping them feel in control of their own lives
  • helping them make sure services empower them, include them, and recognise their rights
  • working at their pace - and influencing others to do the same
  • being non-judgemental
  • helping to safeguard them from abuse or poor practice

Apart from the practical differences an independent advocate can make, the person receiving their support can gain value just from their involvement with the advocate. They may

  • experience what it feels like to 'have a voice'
  • feel more valued through having their views listened to and taken into account
  • gain credibility and confidence through expressing their own ideas, opinions and aspirations and having these treated seriously
  • find out - maybe for the first time - what it feels like to have someone on their side
  • be less intimidated by the processes and services they encounter
  • experience a relationship based on trust and good faith, and one which is equal
  • become less used to doing what they think is expected of them
  • experience having someone there just for them

Advocacy projects List

  • ent of companies have no staff over the age of fifty. Ninety percent of older people believe that employers discriminate against them.

The facts
Age discrimination blights the lives of older people and causes immense hardship, but what exactly is it and have you been affected by it? Read the
executive summary (PDF 97Kb).

Get active!
Add your support to the campaign and help us wipe out age discrimination. Sign up for our
campaign newsletter, fax your MP or request a Scrap It! campaign pack.

Your voice
Voice your opinions and experiences of Age Discrimination, we want to hear what you've got to say.

Campaign plan
How do we hope to eradicate age discrimination? This campaign by Help the Aged is set to last several years, read all about our plans here.

Media centre
Information and an archive of press releases for journalists interested in age discrimination




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