The Advocacy Map: Sustainability of Independent Advocacy in Scotland report has been published by Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) using data provided by SIAA members, who are all independent advocacy organisations and groups. Members shared information which paints a picture of the current position and challenges of the independent advocacy sector. The themes that arose link clearly to the issue of sustainability, both for independent advocacy organisations and the whole system of independent advocacy.
“The demand for independent advocacy has significantly increased during this period and we have used our reserves to increase capacity to meet this. The position is not sustainable for the future and demand is now outstripping resource.”
Previous Advocacy Maps have focused on provision and funding of independent advocacy across Scotland. Whilst this is important, we were also keen to understand what story the data was telling and to understand the prevalent issues for independent advocacy across Scotland. Below we have summarised key themes from the report mapped against The Lasting Difference toolkit which helps organisations address sustainability challenges.
Impact measurement – 71% of respondents identified groups with an unmet need for independent advocacy. This was identified by organisations who had people approach them asking for independent advocacy who did not meet the existing criteria for access. In addition, 64% identified other provision that was lacking.
Improvement – SIAA members offer a range of independent advocacy approaches to a range of client groups. Respondents told us they collect and use evaluation information for a range of purposes, with quality improvement featuring prominently.
Income generation – Our members are affected by recent increases in the cost of living and changes to core funding. This has made it increasingly difficult for funding to cover the true costs of delivering independent advocacy.
Innovation – Independent advocacy organisations have a role in the development of local strategy, but the survey shows that opportunity for involvement is varied.
Involvement – Some members use a range of approaches to involve advocacy partners in their work. This doesn’t appear to be consistent across the network.
In conjunction to SIAA seeking information from members, the Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) sought information from Health and Social Care Partnerships about planning and provision of independent advocacy in their specific area. You can read more about the findings and recommendations in their report, published earlier in 2023, The Right to Advocacy – a review of advocacy planning across Scotland. Key findings from the MWC report include:
- The number of areas with advocacy strategic plans in place has doubled since the Commission’s previous review in 2018; but not all of these plans were said to be up to date. More than a third of areas still do not have strategic plans, although most of them are in the process of developing one.
- In 2018, the Commission made a recommendation that all advocacy strategic plans should be equality impact assessed. Most areas have not done this when developing their strategic advocacy plans.
- Half of the areas said their advocacy budget had not changed in the last two years, and those who had received an uplift (for cost of living or wage increases) reported there has been no change to their services.
- Compared to 2018, more authorities said their plans referenced the provision of independent advocacy services for children and young people, but despite this increase, it amounts to less than half of respondents.
These two reports taken together will support SIAA and its members to contribute to the development of a sustainable advocacy system across Scotland. Including raising sustainability issues with policy makers and commissioners. By working together, we can shine a light on issues, particularly relating to capacity, in the system. The underlying aim of all this work is to ensure access to quality independent advocacy for people who are usually not listened to, and whose rights are at most at risk.
Thank you to Jenny from The Lasting Difference who supported SIAA to analyze the data and focus on the themes in the report.