Research Paper: Role of Social Workers in Independent Advocacy (UK)

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                                                                     Research Paper on

                                                    Advocacy, Partnership and Participation

                                             Role of Social Workers in Independent Advocacy (UK)

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    The social work can be identified as the profession, which is focused towards bringing social change, promoting

    partnership and problem solving and that specifically promotes liberation and empowerment of the people to

    increase their well-being (Loue, 2013). Advocacy is an integral part of social work, as advocacy is the process that

    engage in purposeful actions that will people advance their rights, opportunities, causes and human dignity

    (Thompson, 2015, p. 58). Therefore, the main purpose of social work is to empower people through effective

    advocacy in order to bring improvement in the life of people, who are unable to provide adequately for themselves

    and those who experience life time challenges with health and overall well-being (Wilks, 2012).

    There are various vulnerable and disadvantage groups such as the people from LBGQT community, older people,

    women, children, racial minorities, people suffering from mental disorders and other physical challenges. Campbell

    et al (2018) informs that Role of advocacy becomes significant in empowering people and enhancing their

    confidence. Therefore, this reflection will discuss my personal experience with advocacy during my placement. This

    reflection will also discuss various advocacy models and would provide a critical analysis of their strength and

    weakness. This reflection would provide information that how I integrated the principles of advocacy in my own role

    as a student social worker.

    While working in the organisation that works for the homeless adults suffering with mental health problems, I

    identified that independent advocacy for such people is necessary for their well-being and empowerment. Therefore,

    there is also an opportunity to apply the principles of advocacy to empower homeless people experiencing mental

    health problems. According to Boylan & Dalrymple (2009) Advocacy is generally considered as the process of

    ensuring the voice of others is heard, others are enabled to speak up for themselves, as well as speaking for others

    (Boylan & Dalrymple, 2009). WHO (2003) has also recognized that promoting the empowerment well-being and

    human rights of the people suffering with mental health problems is very important. Research suggests that

    advocacy for the adults suffering with mental health problems can bring many life changing outcomes for these

    people (Thomas et al., 2017). The most important variables of independent advocacy are empowerment, effective

    support, and protection for freedom and rights (Boylan & Dalrymple, 2011).

    The goal of independent advocacy for the individuals suffering with mental health problems is to address the

    problem of unequal relationships between the care seekers and the health and social care providers. JulieRidley &

    Sadd (2018) argues that advocacy is important for empowering people to enable them to exercise greater control

    over their lives and decision-making. Therefore, Dalrymple & Boylan (2013) have suggested the two different forms

    of advocacy- active and passive. In active advocacy, individual is encourage to speak for self, while in passive

    advocacy, social work advocates have the role to speak for the individuals who are not able to speak for themselves.

    An independent advocate can make a significant difference by speaking for the individuals, who are suffering with

    social, economic and health challenges. I learned that as an independent advocate, I can speak for the homeless

    individuals experience mental health problems to ensure that they receive appropriate health services. Independent

    advocate can also help in streamlining the services and support for them by working collaboratively with service providers.

    Therefore, Jugessur & Iles (2009) argued that advocacy also have a legal origin as it is focused on upholding the

    rights of the individuals experiencing mental health problems, so that they may receive better services, being treated

    with respect, dignity and equality, being protected from abuse and a balance of power is established for helping them

    to exercise their rights. Therefore, an independent advocate can insure that individuals are receiving the support

    from other services that is their legal and fundamental right.

    Thompson (2015) has espoused in his study that giving consideration to thoughts and feelings of the service users is

    important for safeguarding and protecting them. One of the major problem that can occur while working with people

    experience mental health problem is protecting their rights and dignity. Individual’s suffering from mental health

    problems are often deprived of their rights to make decisions as they are considered as incapable of making right

    decisions. However, considering the client’s perception, thoughts, feelings and needs are important for providing

    them with best services. For a homeless client, the priority is to provide them a safe shelter, potentially where they

    can also receive mental health support.

    Therefore, advocacy is an important approach in which a social workers or an advocate would subsume their own

    perception and ideas about what would be in the best interest of their clients. Corrigan & Bink (2005) states that

    people with mental health problems may also suffer from stigma and social isolation and may not be able to

    understand their best interest. Therefore, it is when my role of independent advocates becomes imperative in

    promoting the voice of service users, promote their interest and enhance their ability to participate in decision

    making (Newbigging et al (2015). If it is found that client is being ignored by the health services and the mental

    health support they require is not being provides, then as an independent advocate I can encourage services to

    address the needs of the clients and provide them effective support and treatment.

    Studies have also informed that adults experiencing mental health challenges as well as other social and economic

    challenges in their life are particularly at higher risk of becoming vulnerable. Therefore, independent advocacy for

    such people is required to be focused on the recovery based approach. Newbigging & Ridley (2018) developed a

    theoretical framework in their study and implemented the ‘Fricker’s concept of ‘epistemic injustice’ (p. 36), which is

    considered as the unfairness occurring because of lack of knowledge. According to the concept of epistemic injustice,

    people experiencing mental health problems are assumed to be irrational and unreliable and therefore, their

    knowledge and decision making capabilities are disregarded (Newbigging & Ridley, 2018). Therefore, during my

    placement I was able to understand the importance of independent advocacy as the social work student, as advocacy

    would support such individuals in getting access to better services and improving the communication between the

    individuals and the professional services (JulieRidley, & Sadd, 2018).

    There are various forms of independent advocacy for the individuals experiencing mental health problems and other

    life challenges. For example, individual advocacy, in which the advocates and advocacy partner work together to find

    the possible alternatives for enhancing the advocacy partner’s health, well-being and quality of life. During my

    placement I experienced that such form of advocacy can be instructed and non-instructed. Such as Morgan (2011)

    espoused that instructed advocacy is when the advocacy partner or the support seekers can take part in decision

    making and understand their rights and choices. However, non-instructed advocacy is when the individual

    experiencing lack of capacity to make their decisions ad choices, and then their advocates uphold the rights of such

    individuals and ensure that their rights are respected and that they receive fair and equal treatment in care and

    support (Luke et al, 2008). I identified that in both the cases, it was important that client is informed about all

    developments being made in the regard of their health and well-being. Therefore, I would encourage my clients to

    participate in decision making.

    However, when an advocate speaks for the individuals it is important that they understand the needs and concerns

    of the individuals for whom they are speaking. It is also important to understand the independent advocacy is free

    and it should be free from conflict of interest in order to promote the voice and rights of the service users

    (Thompson, 2015). Putting the rights and concerns of people first is associated with the principles of respect and

    non-judgmental attitude towards such individuals. Other important principles of independent advocacy involves,

    empowering people experiencing challenges, providing equal opportunities for social inclusion and equality (Wilks,

    2012). However, other two principle of advocacy that I learned as the student social worker are accountability and

    accessibility. Accountability is to ensure and protect the rights of the individuals facing metal health challenges and

    accessibility is to improve their access to appropriate support and services (Royal College of Psychiatrists London,


    Improving the health and well-being outcomes for the individuals experiencing mental health problems and other

    life challenges is the main purpose of advocacy (Newbigging et al. 2015). Advocacy outcomes can be identified in the

    form of the better support, better collaborative partnership among different stakeholders and bringing a more

    effective change in the health and social care services for such individuals (Loue, 2013). Article 1 of the United

    Nation Convention on the Right of The Persons with Disability states that “promote, protect and ensure the full and

    equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote

    respect for their inherent dignity” (Szmukler, Daw, & Callard, 2014, p. 247). Therefore, protecting such rights of

    such individuals is significant to ensure they are being heard, their feelings and concerns are being considered. In

    this regard a stud conducted by Miller (2011) has also identified three important dimensions of improving the

    individual outcomes through effective advocacy. The three dimensions are quality of life it is related to relationship

    support, employment and housing facilities), process (their voice is being heard and their rights are being upheld)

    and change (there are able to make individual choices and decisions and feel safe) (Miller, 2011).

    Social justice has also found a significant place in literature related to promoting rights of individuals experiencing

    mental health problems and role of independent advocates (Newman & Yeates, 2008). However, Lonbay & Brandon

    (2017) have identified that independent advocacy can also result in causing challenges in regard to the desired

    outcomes. The challenge could be associated with the desired outcomes, which means protecting the interest of the

    service users, while on the other hand promoting their feelings, concerns and thoughts. Therefore, social workers or

    the independent advocates can adopt the legal and regulatory approaches to promote the right of the individuals. For

    example various provisions under the Mental Health Act UK, informs that service users may receive their basic

    rights and opportunities that they have been denied. Empowering the clients, supporting them through their

    recovery journey and helping them to achieve their well-being is most significant aspect of advocacy and partnership.






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