Commonly used terms


An advocate helps people express their views and make informed decisions. An advocate helps people to find out information, explore options and decide for themselves what they want. Advocates can be a voice for the person and encourage them to speak out for themselves.

There are different kinds of advocacy, though they all share things in common. Advocates will never tell people what to do, or allow their own opinions to affect the support they provide. All advocacy tries to increase confidence and assertiveness so that people can start speaking out for themselves.

Independent advocates are as free from conflicts of interest as possible.


The process of standing alongside another, speaking on behalf of another and encouraging the person to speak up for themselves. Advocacy can help address the imbalance of power in society and stand up to injustice.

Advocacy agreement

An Advocacy Agreement explains, for example, what the person can expect from their advocate, what issues they want the advocate to support them with, the contact details of the advocate, what happens at the end of the advocacy partnership and the advocacy organisation’s complaints process.

Advocacy partner

The person who uses advocacy. Some advocacy organisations use the term ‘client’ or ‘service user’.


Ability to reason, make decisions and consider choices, express views and receive and understand information. The law assumes that people have capacity unless a doctor’s assessment shows that a person lacks capacity.


Usually representatives from the Local Authority or Health Board who fund advocacy.

Community of interest

The group of people that the advocacy organisation has been set up to support, for example, people with learning difficulties or mental health issues.

Conflict of interest

Anything that could get in the way of an advocate being completely loyal to their advocacy partner. For example, it would not be appropriate for an advocate volunteering for a mental health advocacy organisation to also work in the local psychiatric hospital, because this would affect their ability to be on the side of the advocacy partner. It would also affect their relationships with hospital staff. Other conflicts of interest could include relationships as well as financial investments.

Discriminatory practices

Anything that an organisation or individual does that directly or indirectly shows prejudice or favouritism towards an individual or group of people.


The prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between people on the grounds of, for example, gender, marital status, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, language, social origin or other personal attributes, including, but not limited to, religious beliefs or political opinions.

Funding contract

The agreement, usually between Local Authority or Health Boards and the advocacy organisation, which outlines how much funding the organisation receives, which geographical areas will be covered, who the advocacy is for and how long the funding is for. (Also see Service Level Agreement)

Independent advocacy organisation

Advocacy organisation that is structurally, financially and psychologically separate from service providers and other services.

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. (See conflict of interest)

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.

Non-instructed advocacy

Non-instructed 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 longterm illness or disability that prevents them from forming or clearly stating their wishes/desires. This usually takes place with people who have dementia or profound and/or severe learning difficulties.

Register of interests

A register lists any conflicts of interest that people who are involved in the organisation have. The level of information recorded in the register will be decided by the organisation. The organisation will decide who is able to access this information in accordance with relevant legislation, such as the Data Protection Act 1998.


Ensuring that people’s rights are protected.

Service provider

A person or organisation involved in giving support or care services to an individual.

Service User

The person who uses advocacy. Some advocacy organisations use the term ‘client’ or ‘advocacy partner’.

Support and supervision

Reflective practice, problem-solving, peer support, individual support and guidance for all members of staff and volunteers in an organisation. Supervision should be a positive experience for all and should take place regularly.