Rhona Willder of the SIAA started by explaining that Independent Advocacy goes hand in hand with human rights. It helps by standing up to injustice, making sure people’s voices are listened to. Independent Advocacy workers are always loyal to the people that they work with.
Next, a film from Ceartas Advocacy set out how, in their Independent Advocacy work, they prioritise people who have particular support needs. For example, this could be due to dementia, mental health issues or disability. Their work is often linked to legislation. For instance they work with people who may be subject to adult support and protection orders, power of attorney, guardianship or mental health tribunals.
Some stories of individual advocacy in action
We heard from a lady who was assisted by Ceartas. She told us how she had felt that social workers were not listening to her when discussing her children who were looked after at that time. She said that when she started getting individual advocacy from Ceartas she felt that ‘somebody had my back’. Ceartas were able to accompany her to meetings with solicitors. They kept her updated with what was happening. They helped her to write everything down so she could understand the process. She said that social work took her more seriously and that she was more aware of her rights.
Next we heard about an elderly lady with very limited physical mobility. An individual advocacy worker helped her navigate the process of moving from hospital to a care home of her choice. Ceartas supported the lady in meetings with social workers. They kept her wishes at the forefront. Her capacity was built up again as a result of being in the care home and she was able to gain a bit more independence.
We also heard about a young man who was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act due to an experience of psychosis. It turned out that he had actually been detained illegally. An individual advocacy worker was able to assist him to get the compensation he was entitled to.
Capacity to provide Independent Advocacy
In the questions, we discussed capacity within Independent Advocacy. Participants said that there had been an increase in the number of people requesting Independent Advocacy. Rhona explained that although there may be a right to advocacy for a broader range of people in the law, when it came to funding there was often a narrower focus. This means that although people may have the right to advocacy, they may not necessarily have access to it due to limited funding.