Advocacy support – getting your views across

Sometimes people need some additional help to get their views across. This can be especially important when decisions need to be made about things such as their mental capacity, or care and support arrangements.

Page contents:

What is advocacy?

Advocacy means getting support from another person to help you express your views and wishes, and help you stand up for your rights. Advocacy services help people to get their point of view over to help them get services they may be entitled to.

Advocacy can improve a person’s situation, either through helping that person to resolve issues and difficulties or through gaining increased knowledge, and confidence in speaking up for themselves.

Some people are not clear about their rights, or have difficulty fully understanding or accessing these rights. The purpose of advocacy is to help people to:

  • clarify and express their views and concerns
  • get information and services
  • defend and promote their rights and responsibilities
  • explore choices and options
  • negotiate and resolve issues

Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate, or independent advocate. An advocate may be needed by a person:

  • who has a disability
  • who has a learning difficulty
  • who has mental health problems
  • who has a problem communicating what they want
  • who has problems understanding and/ or remembering things
  • who has problems weighing up things
  • who is a carer
  • who wants to complain about the care they receive
  • who wants to complain about NHS services

Support may also be needed by young people who will need support and care after they reach the age of 18.

Advocates can be someone you know, such as a friend or family member, or they can be a professional advocate who is trained and experienced in providing this kind of support.

Your right to advocacy services

There are some situations where a person is legally entitled to the support of an advocate. This is called 'statutory advocacy'. In England there are three types of statutory advocacy:

Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)

If you are being detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, you are legally entitled to support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). These are specially trained advocates who can support certain patients.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)

IMCAs are available for anyone over the age of 16 who does not have an appropriate family member or friend to consult or represent their views, and lack the capacity to make a decision about:

  • any serious medical treatments
  • a move to a hospital that would be for more than 28 days
  • a move to a care home that would be for more than 8 weeks; or
  • their safety or care is likely to result in them being deprived of their liberty

IMCA advocates are specially trained to support certain people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

IMCAs can also become involved when a person is subject to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard (DoLS).  DoLS is part of the MCA and provides a legal framework for someone who is assessed as Deprived of their liberty in a hospital or care home.  DoLS advocates can support the person or their Representative to protect their rights.

Social care advocates

The Care Act 2014 says local authorities (councils) must involve people in decisions about their care and support. An advocate can help you be heard, understand your choices and make your own decisions about your care needs during:

  • Your care and support needs assessment
  • Your care and support planning
  • Your care and support reviews
  • Having a safeguarding enquiry (if someone thinks that you may be unsafe or at risk) or arranging for a Safeguarding Adults Review

You can read more about the different types of statutory advocacy available and how to access them on VoiceAbility's website, or below under Get advocacy support.

Other types of advocacy support available

As well as the statutory advocacy services outlined above, other types of advocacy support are available. This is sometimes called ‘general’ advocacy, and offers support for a variety of day-to-day difficulties. This will include people from all groups,  and will usually be time-limited and issue-based.

General advocates work with individuals who may have difficulties being involved in decisions that affect them, such as those with learning difficulties, physical health problems, mental health problems, acquired brain injury and dementia. General advocacy includes the following:

Support when making a complaint

Independent complaints procedure advocacy can support you to make complaints about health and social care services, for example if you are unhappy with a service that you have received.

Advocacy support for carers

A carer is someone who helps to look after a friend, relative or neighbour who cannot manage at home without them. Advocacy may be provided to a carer at any stage of their caring journey, for example where the person they care for has moved into residential or nursing care, as the carer may still play an ongoing role in relation to their care and support.

Get advocacy support

VoiceAbility offer a full range of statutory and general advocacy support to residents of South Gloucestershire aged 18 and over.

They can help with:

  • helping you to make a complaint about adult care or NHS services
  • adult care advocacy
  • advocacy for people who do not have mental capacity
  • mental health advocacy

This service is free and confidential. Voiceability can provide advice or information and in some cases may be able to provide more practical support.

You can contact VoiceAbility in the following ways:

VoiceAbility, c/o Sayer Vincent
Invicta House
108-114 Golden Lane
London, EC1Y 0TL

Telephone: 0300 303 1600



Further information

Information about advocacy is also available on the NHS website.

For parents and carers of children or young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), there is also an article available on Mediation and appeals for education, health and care plans (EHCPs).