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. This includes a right under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 to access independent advocacy for;
- 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 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 page or contact your local advocacy organisation.
How can I find my local Independent Advocacy organisation?
You can use our Find an Advocate page 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 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 advocacy happens when there are issues with a person’s capacity perhaps due to dementia, or limited communication due to a physical disability or a learning disability. In such situations, a non-instructed advocate seeks to uphold their advocacy partner’s rights and ensure that decisions are taken with full consideration of their unique preferences, rights, and perspectives.
SIAA has produced Non-Instructed Advocacy Guidelines to work alongside the Independent Advocacy Principles Standards and Code of Best Practice. SIAA has also produced a leaflet about non-instructed advocacy.
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. There are three components of independence; structural, financial and psychological. For an advocacy organisation to be robust and effective it needs to be alert to all three.
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.
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.
How do I complain about an independent advocate or independent advocacy organisation?
Your independent advocate should provide you with 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 organisation’s 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 the national intermediary organisation for independent advocacy in Scotland. SIAA promotes, support sand defends the principles and practice of independent advocacy.
Our aim is to raise awareness about the value and impact of independent advocacy, and influence decision makers ultimately with a view to widen access to independent advocacy for all who need it in Scotland. Read more about how SIAA advocates for independent advocacy.