Is Advocacy Truly Independent? @ 24 Apr 2016

The purpose of Advocacy is to provide a vulnerable person with a voice that gets across their views, beliefs, values and wishes to an authority as well as enable the vulnerable person to take a proactive approach to accessing their entitlements thus preventing the violation of their human rights. Advocacy services are usually accessed when a person who is trying to resolve or bring to the attention of a relevant authority e.g. housing, social work, occupational therapy etc. an issue that they have where they believe there to be a power imbalance which makes them vulnerable to being denied their entitlements/human rights or are experiencing the denial of such entitlements/human rights.

In order for the client to have confidence in their advocate being able to address such power imbalances it is important that the advocate is “Independent”. What we mean by Independent is that an advocate has no vested interest in the outcome of any case that someone comes to the advocate with. In other words, the advocate is neither going to gain if the authority get the outcome they desire or if the client gets the outcome they desire. This ensures that any dispute or process the client is a part of has a “neutral” person investigating proper procedure as well as a person’s rights and entitlements thus guaranteeing that the client will be provided with a truthful service that can bring to account any improper practice from the authoritative body.

Under the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 clients with mental health problems have a right to an advocate. The Scottish Government provide funding to Advocacy charities to provide this service. This money allows for Advocacy organisations to meet the demand that the Mental Health Care & Treatment Act places upon the Scottish Government. The funding is devolved to Local Authorities who then commission advocacy services in accordance with the Scottish Government “Guide to Commissioners” (2013)

It could be argued that this allocated money affects the Independence of advocates as they are receiving a grant from the Scottish Government that funds the authorities that advocate’s clients can very often be in dispute with or be vulnerable to disputes due to an existing power imbalance. It could be argued that the advocate now has a vested interest in the outcome of any case involving a governmental funded public authority as they themselves are now vulnerable to having funding cut if the outcomes to their cases are not in favour of the authority.

An advocacy service cannot be said to be truly “independent” if it accepts funding from the Scottish Government.

 


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