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The Key Principles underpinning Independent Advocacy are in the Advocacy Charter which can be found on a poster on the Advocacy Quality Performance Mark (QPM) Website. These Key Principles are also defined and promoted within the Advocacy QPM Code of Practice.
The key principles of Independent Advocacy are:
Clarity of Purpose: Advocacy organisations being clear about what their aims, objectives and intended activities are and how these fulfil the principles in the Advocacy Charter. They also provide information to clients and other agencies regarding the scope and limitations of their role.
Independence: Independent Advocates are independent from other agencies such as the social care and health services, the police and so on. They are working for the client rather than for those services and so aren't influenced or controlled by those services. The same goes for the client's friends and family members.
Advocates shouldn't have any vested interest in what the client does. It could pose a conflict of interest if an Advocate knows a client personally. If this happened then another Advocate who doesn't know the client personally should be assigned to the case.
Person Led Approach: Independent Advocacy work is led by the clients as far as possible. For this to work Advocates need to be non-judgemental and respectful of people, and not tell them what they 'should' and 'shouldn't' do. Instead, they provide them with impartial information regarding the possible consequences of their decisions, allowing them to make their own mind up in an informed way.
Empowerment: It’s not very empowering in the long run if a person has the potential to speak up for themselves but the Advocate simply always does this for them. The Advocate needs to encourage and enable clients to speak up for themselves as far as possible. This may include enabling them to make informed decisions by providing information to the client as to their rights and available options. Advocates should also work with people as far as possible in deciding what the Advocate will do for them, rather than simply telling them what they will do, or even doing it without consulting the client.
Equality & Diversity: Advocacy organisations should have a proactive equal opportunities policy with the aim of challenging all forms of inequality, discrimination and social exclusion.
Accessibility: Eligible people will not have to pay for advocacy and they shouldn’t be charged for it. An Advocacy provider’s services ought to be physically accessible. Advocates should provide clients with information and communicate with them in ways that are understandable and accessible for them. The Advocacy service and its inclusive person-led nature should be promoted in the area it serves, in order to ensure that all eligible people can access it.
Accountability: Advocacy organisations need to evaluate and keep a check on their own work. They are accountable to the people who use their services and should actively obtain feedback from those clients and respond to any complaints. Advocacy organisations should be transparent in how complaints or feedback can be made and provide support to people to make and pursue such complaints.
Confidentiality: Advocacy Organisations in the UK should have a confidentiality policy that adheres to the data protection Act 2018. It should state how clients’ information might be shared. It should also make clear under what circumstances people’s confidentiality would have to be broken.
Safe-guarding: Advocacy organisations need clear safe-guarding policies and procedures so that risks and harm to people are recognised and acted on.
Supporting Advocates: It goes without saying that Advocates need to be trained and supported to develop the skills and experience required to uphold the above principles.