Sometimes the reason we need help is the reason we cannot speak up for ourselves. At these times, having an ‘advocate’ to represent us can be a godsend
Most of us have been in a situation where we have been unable to get our point across in a difficult situation. It could involve us trying to complain and not being listened too. Or being pressured into accepting a decision or situation we don’t agree with. Feeling helpless, or trapped even, can be worse when we’re on our own.
In these situations, having a trusted friend with us can help us get our voice heard. Another word for someone that helps in this kind of situation is an ‘advocate’. An advocate can help us express our views and concerns, access information and explore our options and choices.
What can an advocate help with?
An advocate can be helpful in all sorts of situations, including:
- Getting access to the right kinds of health and social care treatment
- Making a complaint if we believe we’ve been mistreated
- Attending a benefits appointment with us or helping us make a benefits claim
- Going along with us to a GP or hospital appointment
- Helping us manage housing problems, like rent arrears
What do advocates not do?
An advocate’s role is specific. It is to support us getting our voices heard and to help make sure we retain our rights. Advocates do not:
- Take actions on our behalf without our consent
- Make decisions on our behalf
- Give us legal advice or act as a counsellor
Who can be my advocate?
There are loads of organisations that offer advocacy services. There are specialised advocacy groups like seAp who offer advocacy for health and social care situations.
Shelter offer advocacy around housing issues like evictions, arrears and landlord disputes. For more general advice and information around advocacy work, Mind and Citizens Advice are great starting points (see below for links).
Friends and relatives
An advocate doesn’t have to be a trained or paid professional. Advocacy can be provided by a friend or family member who we know and trust to act in our best interests. The important thing to bear in mind if asking a friend or relative to act as an advocate is that it is a specific role. We’re not giving up our rights to make our own choices.
A good advocate will understand that they are acting in our interest. They are there to help our voice to be heard. That means that sometimes they might disagree with what we want to do in a certain situation. We should only ask someone to act as our advocate if we trust they can manage the responsibility and it won’t damage our relationship.
If you think you would benefit from having an advocate, the following can be a great place to start. Get in touch to find out how they can help.
- Citizens Advice – offer loads of information about advocacy in general
- Voiceability – provide free and independent advocacy service
- SeAp – provide advocacy for people dealing with health and social care
- Shelter – provide advocacy for people experiencing problems with housing
- Mind – provide useful info and links to advocacy services
Remember, if you’re struggling to get your voice heard there is help out there. Having someone to speak up for you, whether a friend or a professional, can make a big difference.