If you feel like no-one is listening to you, or you’re not able to express what you want to say or how you feel, you could benefit from an advocacy service. This is when you’ll be appointed someone who will help you to understand your rights, and support you to take control of your life and any situation that you require. Here, we explain the idea in more detail and highlight everything there is to know.

What is advocacy?

Whether you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction or a mental health concern, it can be hard to express how you’re feeling. Not to mention the fact that you may feel like people don’t listen to you or take your views seriously. When you’re tasked with speaking to professionals, whether in social care or medical settings for example, it can be even harder.

With an advocate by your side though, you’ll have someone to guide you through these situations. They can explain anything you don’t understand, ensure you have access to the right opportunities and information, support you to express how you’re feeling and make sure your rights are being kept to. While they won’t pressure you to make certain decisions, they will ensure you have the right information to make informed decisions.

An advocate can help you in any situation but the most common reasons someone might enlist their support is for health care and social care appointments, benefit claims and appointments, a housing problem or even workplace disputes.

Why do I need an advocate?

As well as ensuring that you have all the right information and are being treated exactly as you should be, an advocate can help you to feel more confident. For example, if you find asking certain questions about your addiction treatment options or care daunting, they can help you.

What’s more, they can step in if you become distressed or upset in certain situations, such as meetings, and ask for a break. This can be essential for making measured decisions in real life.

Who can be my advocate?

Friends, family members or someone you know can act as an advocate or you can use a professional advocacy service. Typically, these are separate from the NHS and social services but you will be able to get recommendations from them.

If you do choose a friend or family member to be your advocate, it’s important to remember that a relationship with an advocate is very different from a relationship with a loved one. You need to be able to trust them, and they shouldn’t express their views or opinions on the matter. Instead, they’re there to listen to you and support you to be heard and make your own decisions.

Even if you choose a professional advocate to aid you, you may find that speaking to loved ones and getting family support can help you to feel better about certain situations.

Types of advocacy

There are many different services for advocacy including specialist ones for those who are vulnerable, asylum seekers, young people, LGBTQ and even those with housing problems. There are also mental health advocates who specialise in helping people with mental health concerns.

One of the most common types is community advocacy, which supports individuals in various situations day-to-day. Group advocacy is when a group of people who have experienced similar things or who are going through something similar come together to support one another. Also known as collective advocacy, this can help people to ensure their points are raised and heard in clear.

If you’re suffering with mental health issues, you may find it beneficial to get support from someone who’s been in your shoes. Alternatively, you might want to get support from someone who has experienced substance abuse treatment and recovery. This is called peer advocacy.

Finally, there’s statutory advocacy which is when someone has legal rights to advocacy. Specially trained advocates called Independent Mental Health Advocates and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates may support patients under the Mental Health Act and Social Care Advocates may support those under the Care Act.

Finding an advocate

Depending on the reason why you need an advocate, there are various advocacy services available across the UK. If you need support when it comes to treatment and care, the team looking after you may be able to recommend a relevant service or support group. Various support services online also list advocacy services in your local area.

When you do find an advocate, you might want to consider asking a few questions to ensure you’re choosing the right one. After all, you need to be completely comfortable with them and able to talk to them freely and openly. Some questions to consider include how and when can I contact you, what can’t you help me with and what things do you keep confidential and not confidential?

How Addiction Advocates can help

At Addiction Advocates, we have a 24/7 free helpline that’s dedicated to anyone affected by addiction – including the individual themselves, their friends and family members. Our friendly team are experts when it comes to answering your questions – whether it’s about addiction recovery advocacy or something else. And, we can even help you to find a national recovery rehab centre that provides the right care and support for you to get clean from alcohol and other drugs.

What’s more, we’re able to advise on advocacy services in your local area and can help you to get onto the path of the life that you want, and deserve. So if you’re ready to take the next step and would like to discuss how working with an advocate can help you, contact our team on 0800 012 6088.