Advocacy is about standing up to injustice. It is something that happens all the time, is a part of all our lives and is something we all do. It takes place at a local level amongst family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues, but it also happens at a national and international level amongst people who will probably never meet.
Independent advocacy has been funded in Scotland for many years and there are a number of advocacy organisations that have been funded consistently for over 20 years. Over time the Scottish advocacy movement has grown and there are now around 60 independent advocacy organisations in Scotland. These organisations support a range of people to fulfil their dreams, wishes and desires as well as meet some very basic needs.
Advocacy organisations only provide advocacy and are independent from other service provision. This ensures that actual or potential conflicts of interest are minimised.
Independent advocacy is structurally, financially and psychologically separate from service providers and other services. Such independence helps to ensure that there is no possibility of any conflict of interest arising in relation to any other services accessed by the individual or group.
Advocacy enables people to be involved in decisions which affect their lives. It helps them to express their views and wishes, to access information, to make informed choices and to have control over as many aspects of their lives as possible.
The Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 identifies that every person with a mental disorder (as defined under section 328 of the Act) has a right to independent advocacy. The Act places a duty on local authorities and the NHS to ensure that such services are available.
Commissioners thereby have a legal duty to ensure that everyone with a mental disorder in their NHS Board or Local Authority area can access independent advocacy. This duty applies to children and young people as well as adults. It also applies to people living in the community with a mental disorder who may be supported by a wide range of care providers in community settings and not solely those who are detained under the Act’s powers.
The Scottish Government has published updated guidance (2013) for commissioning advocacy.