SIAA has published a new Briefing on the Legal Definition and Components of Independent Advocacy. SIAA are clear that in order for independent advocacy to work well and be resourced effectively it needs to be clearly defined in law and policy. For example, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 has the most robust definition of independent advocacy in Scottish legislation to date. SIAA believe expanding access to quality, grassroots independent advocacy for all those who need it can be achieved, in part, through strengthening the definition of independent advocacy in upcoming law and policy. A clear definition shapes the types of procurement and contracts that are created to provide independent advocacy, independent advocacy organisations themselves, independent advocacy practice and, most importantly, shapes the experience of advocacy partners and groups accessing independent advocacy to address injustices and human rights issues. The definition in the 2003 Mental Health Act is a starting point but can be improved upon.

This Briefing brings together our work in this area to present a legal definition that aligns with the definition of indepenendent advocacy co-created with SIAA member organisations produced for the Independent Advocacy Principles, Standards and Code of Best Practice. The definition therefore draws directly from the experitse and experience of independent advocacy organisations and groups that have been delivering independent advocacy across Scotland for over 30 years.

This definition comprises of ‘structural, financial and psychological independence’ being the key components of independent advocacy. Structural and financial independence are fundamental to establishing and maintaining the independence of the organisation providing independent advocacy. Psychological independence is part of the practice of independent advocacy, enabling trust to be built with advocacy partners, as well as speaking to the quality of independent advocacy provision. Additionally, psychological independence influences the organisational culture and values necessary for independent advocacy organisations. SIAA propose that two of the three components of independent advocacy are outlined in upcoming primary legislation e.g. in Bills and Acts of the Scottish Parliament. The third component of independent advocacy is difficult to define in law and therefore SIAA propose that psychological independence is included and expanded upon in regulations or standards that support the law and guidance documents that provide more detail on implementation.

Primary Legislation

Guidance and Secondary legislation e.g. Regulations

The below diagram helps to illustrate how the key components that enable advocacy to be independent work together as well as highlights the models of independent advocacy.
Diagram of independent advocacy models and components


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