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Advocacy Awareness Week - Celebrating the Power and Impact of Advocacy

Posted: 22/10/18, Author: Gail Petty

I’m really excited about the first ever Advocacy Awareness Week

My hope is that this will be a week of celebrating all that is great in advocacy, as well as being an opportunity to tell our stories of the power and impact that advocacy can have in people’s lives; in having their voices heard and understood, in having rights upheld, in addressing inequalities and achieving social justice and ultimately in achieving the lives that people want to live.

Advocacy Awareness Week - Celebrating the Power and Impact of Advocacy

All too often, we still hear that many people don’t understand advocacy – what it is and how it differs from other kinds of supports – this week we all have an added opportunity to share - with videos, blogs, news, advocacy facts, and more to tell the story of advocacy.

This week at NDTi, we will be sharing content related to our campaign theme of this year, “Statutory Advocacy Is Not Enough”

Many of you will have heard me say that I believe statutory advocacy – the advocacy that people have a right to under legislation – is hugely important.  It provides vital safeguards to people, many of whom may be in extremely vulnerable positions, facing huge challenges, where big decisions are being made that could have a significant impact in how they are able to live their lives - and where people’s rights and freedoms may also be at risk.

That is, for those who are eligible – and if we were to draw a Venn diagram of people who meet the eligibility criteria for the majority of statutory advocacy and those who want or need to access advocacy support – the eligible people would probably form a fairly small cross section in the middle.  I heard from one provider recently, that about 45% of the people that they have traditionally supported will now have no access to advocacy services as the Local Authority has shifted its focuses to commissioning statutory advocacy in the main.  Numbers like this are both shocking and concerning.

When we only deliver statutory advocacy, we miss out on enabling those that who fall outside that strict eligibility to say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need – in relation to the health, social care and education systems and beyond.

Here are some of my thoughts and observations about the power and importance of Non-Statutory advocacy. We’ll be sharing further blogs and content in relation to some of these during the week and I hope they may also prompt you in to sharing some of your own stories this week:

  1. Non-Statutory Advocacy or Community Advocacy can be hugely powerful and have a significant impact in people’s lives: for example, by reducing poverty when supporting people to access welfare benefits they’re entitled to, enabling families to understand and be heard within Care Proceedings, sorting out issues with housing, accessing information, services and support, making complaints and seeking redress where things have gone wrong.
  2. Non-Statutory Community Advocacy can also often prevent people getting into crisis and needing to access more formal services, by providing support to people before situations escalate or become entrenched.  But, only when it’s available.
  3. Good Community Advocacy provision supports good statuary advocacy provision; there are great examples of where non-statutory advocacy augments statutory advocacy.  We often see this with Care Act and Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) – advocates who are able to provide statutory advocacy as well as generic advocacy are often able to provide more holistic and person-centred support. For example, by supporting people with issues unrelated to their detention under the Mental Health Act, but which may be hugely important to the person, like their housing, benefits or making sure someone is feeding their cat.
  4. Self-Advocacy Groups also continue to make significant differences within communities.  Collective voices, raising and addressing issues which impact on many, for example raising awareness and addressing Hate Crime in partnership with the police force, addressing issues with Bus Companies to improves access and understanding of the needs of people with disabilities.
  5. Peer advocacy support and volunteer or citizen advocacy also continue to provide vital support.  This year we have met some incredible volunteer advocates, many of whom have their own lived experience of aging, mental ill health or learning disability and who have gone on to receive training and provide much valued support to others.
  6. We need to continue to get better at demonstrating the impact that all types of advocacy can have, but I think this is particularly important when it comes to Non-statutory advocacy.  We need our colleagues, commissioners and leaders in Health and Social Care to understand what Community Advocacy can achieve.
  7. Many organisations are taking innovative approaches in developing their capacity to provide community advocacy as well as developing advocacy capacity within the communities they are a part of.   We’ll be sharing some examples later in the week.
  8. Commissioning practice can have a significant impact: We continue to see exciting and robust approaches to commissioning advocacy within local communities.  This week, at the Special Interests Groups, following the National Advocacy Conference we’ll be getting together to talk about how can commissioning practice support high quality, effective delivery of independent advocacy and to understand what we can learn from current and previous practice and experiences.

So, here’s a reminder of how to get involved:

Share your stories: #AAW18

Whether you’re an advocacy organisation, an advocate or a person who has benefitted from advocacy we’d love to hear your story. Share, blogs, videos, news stories pictures and case studies online using the hashtag #AAW18

Share our Campaign: Statutory Advocacy is not enough. #HearmyVoice

Statutory advocacy provides important and vital safeguards to those who are eligible, however when we only deliver statutory advocacy we miss out on enabling people who fall outside that strict eligibility to say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need. 

Gail Petty is the Advocacy & Voice Lead at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)

NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues

Gail Petty's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.