Guidance for Unpaid Carer Advocacy in Scotland

This document, endorsed by Scottish Government and COSLA provides guidance for advocacy professionals who are interested in or are currently undertaking advocacy work with unpaid carers in Scotland.

Advocacy and duty of care

Unlike other professionals and service providers, advocates do not make judgements on what is the 'best interest' for their advocacy partner. This means therefore that they cannot work from a 'duty of care'. Their role is to express the views their advocacy partner wishes them to, whether they are considered to have unacceptable risks or not be beneficial for them. An advocate's obligation to not withhold from the carer any information, pertaining to the carer, that they are privy to is a further extension of this, since to do so may be to make a judgement on what information is in their best interests to know about.

This also extends to the information and options which an advocate presents to their advocacy partner. The advocate can discuss the likely consequences of different options so that the advocacy partner may make an informed decision, but will ultimately not exclude choices which may be considered 'unwise' for them.

The absence of duty of care does not mean that advocates put people at risk because a request made on behalf of the advocacy partner can be turned down. What it does mean is that the person has had the opportunity to ask for or say what they want, and to receive a response that they can understand.

NB* It should be noted that this is different to the advocate's professional and legal obligation to report any child or adult protection concerns they may have to the relevant authorities which should be explained to advocacy partners at the outset.

Case study

Margaret is a carer for her husband Brian who is in the advanced stages of dementia. As his illness has progressed Brian has become increasingly aggressive toward his wife, which has escalated to physical violence in recent months. After a serious incident, Margaret moved out of the couple's home temporarily, however now feels ready to return. Other professionals and family members concerned for Margaret's safety feel this course of action is not in her best interests and try to discourage her from doing so. Margaret's advocacy worker has talked through the various alternatives available to her without being required by a 'duty of care' to advise her against this course of action. Having explored other options Margaret is adamant that she still wishes to continue living within the home and wants her advocacy worker to help her express that wish. As Margaret's advocacy worker does not need to work from a position of 'duty of care', they are able to express on her behalf that she wishes to return to the marital home, irrespective of any potential risks. The advocacy worker also provides Margaret with information about a local dementia specific carer support group.


Email: Peggy Winford

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