It is essential that people living with and at risk are given the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the services they use. However, whilst some people feel empowered to make their views heard, other may face barriers and feel they would like some help, support and advocacy.
What is advocacy?
The aim of advocacy is to help individuals gain increased confidence and assertiveness so that, where possible, they will feel able to self-advocate when the need arises.
An advocate is a person who supports individuals or groups to represent themselves and their interests. This could include supporting people to make informed choices about their lives and to have a voice in decisions which affect them. They can also speak on behalf of someone if a person feels unable to do this themselves. They can provide support on specific issues, for example treatment, welfare, employment or housing. They are able to provide information but not advice and the support can be short or long term
An advocate is not the same as a lawyer, they cannot give you legal advice.
How do I access advocacy in Scotland?
Advocacy services provide help to people who may need support and encouragement to exercise their rights. In Scotland, access to free advocacy services is a right for anyone with a mental disorder; this includes a mental health problem (e.g. anxiety or depression), learning disability or acquired brain injury.
In some areas, free advocacy services are also available to people with other disabilities – this would include people living with HIV. Information on availability of advocacy in all local authority areas can be found in the Find an Advocate section on the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) website or you can telephone the SIAA on 0131 556 6443.
I have been told I don't qualify for a free advocate - what other help is there?
If you are unable to find an individual to help advocate for you there may be other options available to you.
- Peer advocacy: Advocacy can also be provided by a peer who shares significant life experiences with the person receiving advocacy. For example, a person living with HIV could provide advocacy for somebody who has been recently diagnosed. Peer advocates use their own experiences to understand and have empathy with their advocacy partner. Peer advocacy helps people increase confidence and assertiveness so that the individual can speak out for themselves and be meaningfully involved in decisions about their life. A number of support services provide peer advocacy. Information about services near you can be found in the service finder section of our website.
- Group or collective advocacy: Collective Advocacy is when a peer group of people or community with shared interests, come together to represent their views, preferences and experiences. The annual Positive Persons’ Forum, which brings together people living with HIV from across Scotland to put forward their priorities for change, is an example of shared advocacy. For more information, including how to attend the next conference, visit the Forum page.