Who can use Independent Advocacy?
There are a few groups of people that have a right of access to independent advocacy enshrined in Scottish Legislation, you can find out more about the groups and relevant legislation on our Legislation page. This includes a right under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 to access independent advocacy.
- People with “mental disorders”. This means people with mental illness or a mental health condition.
- People with learning disabilities, autism and/or dementia.
You do not have to be in a hospital or under any mental health legislation in order to get this right to access independent advocacy. You can find out more about the Mental Health Act from the Mental Welfare Commission.
Access to independent advocacy varies in different parts of Scotland. Many independent advocacy organisations are only funded to work with specific groups, so check details on our Find an Advocate directory or contact your local advocacy organisation.
If advocacy does not sound right for you we have information about getting different types of support on our Advice and Helplines page.
How can I find my local Independent Advocacy organisation?
You can use the SIAA Find an Advocate map to locate organisations which are in your area and groups that they work with.
If you are not able to use this directory, please phone the SIAA on 0131 510 9410 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can give you more information about what Independent Advocacy provision is available in your area.
Can someone who cannot instruct an advocate have independent advocacy?
Yes. This is called non-instructed independent advocacy.
Non-instructed independent advocacy happens when a person who needs an independent advocate cannot tell the advocate what they want. This may be because the person has complex communication needs or has a long-term illness or disability that prevents them from forming or clearly stating their needs, wishes and desires. This usually takes place with people who have dementia or profound and/or severe learning difficulties.
The SIAA has also produced a leaflet about non-instructed advocacy which can be downloaded here.
What does independent mean?
Sometimes there can be conflicts of interest for those supporting an individual or group, for instance where there are assumptions about ‘what is best’ for them.
Independent advocacy is as free as possible from conflicts of interest, being completely separate from service providers and funders and with the organisation involved providing no services other than advocacy. It is structurally, financially and psychologically free from interests such as being a provider of services, a gatekeeper of services, a funder of services, a statutory body or family and friends.
- Structurally – an independent advocacy organisation is a separate organisation in its own right. For example, they are registered as a charity or company and have their own Management Committee or Board of Directors. Everyone involved in the organisation recognises that they are separate and different from other organisations and services.
- Financially – an independent advocacy organisation has its own source of funding that does not cause any conflicts of interest and that does not compromise the work it does.
- Psychologically – everyone involved in the organisation knows that they are only limited in what they do by the principles of independent advocacy, resources and the law. It is important to recognise that although there may be conflicts of interest present, psychological independence is vital.
You can find out more information about what being independent means in SIAA’s Principles and Standards & Code of Practice document.
Do I have to pay for an independent advocate?
No, independent advocacy is free. Referring a person to independent advocacy does not cost anything. It is funded by local authorities and the NHS.
Who funds independent advocacy?
Under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, NHS Boards and Local Authorities have a duty to fund independent advocacy.
Many NHS Boards and Local Authorities also fund independent advocacy for people other than those affected by the Mental Health Act. Other funders include the Scottish Government, the Big Lottery, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland and several small Trusts and Foundations.
For more information on who funds advocacy go to our Advocacy Map.
What are the different types of advocacy?
There are two types of independent advocacy – individual and collective.
- One to one or individual advocacy – This includes professional or issue-based advocacy. It can be provided by both paid and unpaid advocates. An advocate supports an individual to represent his/her own interests or represents the views of an individual if the person is unable to do so. Advocates provide support on specific issues and provide information, but not advice. This support can be short or long term. One to one advocacy includes citizen advocacy and peer advocacy.
- Collective advocacy – Collective advocacy creates spaces for people to get together, support each other to explore shared issues and find common ground. It supports people to speak up about their experiences, values and expectations. It enables people to find a stronger voice, to campaign and influence the agendas and decisions that shape and affect their lives.
How do I complain about the support I have received from an independent advocate?
Your independent advocate should have given you a copy of their organisation’s complaints policy at the start of your advocacy partnership that will explain who you should contact if you have a complaint. If you do not have this information, then you should contact the organisation to find out about their complaints procedure.
The SIAA does not have a regulatory role and is unable to investigate any complaints you may have about an advocacy organisation. If you have gone through the Independent advocacy organisation’s internal complaints process and are unhappy with the outcome, you can take your complaint to the NHS and Local Authority funders. If you are still not satisfied you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
What does SIAA do?
SIAA advocates for independent advocacy. We are a membership organisation that has the overall aim of ensuring that independent advocacy is available to any vulnerable person in Scotland. We do this by:
- Providing a strong national voice for independent advocacy organisations
- Supporting the growth of existing independent advocacy organisations
- Promoting the development of new independent advocacy organisations
- Encouraging existing advocacy organisations towards independence
In practice this means:
- developing and sharing best practice
- providing information and support to our members, who are all local Independent advocacy organisations
- representing our members and providing information on independent advocacy for voluntary sector organisations, statutory agencies and other interested parties
- raising awareness and understanding of independent advocacy across Scotland
- ensuring that independent advocacy is increasingly available through influencing current and future national practice and policy. See our Legislation page for more details.