8. Planning for Independent Advocacy
8.1 It helps to think of investing in advocacy as a way of building community capacity, rather than simply as buying a service. Independent advocacy is not something which the local authority or NHS Boards could provide directly. By definition, independent advocacy operates at arm's length from the provision of local authority or NHS Board services.
8.2 NHS Boards and local authorities fund independent advocacy to meet statutory obligations and because they recognise the contribution it makes to the overall health and responsiveness of the service system and to wider issues of equality and inclusiveness in the community.
8.3 Investing wisely in independent advocacy means thinking carefully about the places where advocacy is needed, about what are the needs that are specific to the area e.g. rural or urban areas, population size etc., about what approach to advocacy would work best on those different places, and how public money could best be used to encourage and sustain these approaches. And - as with all commissioning - this thinking has to be done aloud and in partnership with other stakeholders.
8.4 Commissioners need to be aware of barriers and obstacles in the development of independent advocacy for certain groups. For members of groups who are marginalised and face discrimination in the wider world it is particularly important that they have ease of access to independent advocacy.
8.5 It may be difficult, for example, to establish a new advocacy organisation for people from LGBT communities. In some cases organisations that already provide services to LGBT groups may feel that they are the most appropriate organisation to provide advocacy for their service users. Service users may prefer to access advocacy support from an organisation that they are already familiar with and trust but which also provides other services.
8.6 This dilemma raises a number of issues that need to be addressed whilst ensuring that advocacy, which is independent of those involved in the person's treatment care and is free from conflicts of interest, should be available for all who need it. Local Authority and NHS Board commissioners need to be aware of their duties under a number of different policies and legislation. Whilst it is vital that particular duties are adhered to it is also important that additional obstacles and barriers are not inadvertently created making it difficult to meet the needs of the group whilst also following the principles of independent advocacy.
8.7 An individual may face multiple layers of discrimination in wider society based on perhaps their age, gender, ethnicity, mental health, sexuality or substance dependency and might experience similar barriers in accessing existing advocacy provision. It is important to remember that advocacy organisations should be accessible to all.
Email: Sandra Falconer
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