I still can't quite believe how many questions I've been asked about advocacy this week. I found out that it’s actually quite refreshing to be asked questions who don’t know anything about advocacy; it makes you have to re-examine your language, your answers and your assumptions.
Fortunately, most of the questions were easy to answer, I could even direct people to websites, codes of practice and legislation. But with some questions it struck me that the answer is more nuanced, more dependent on other people or services than some might expect. It became easier to see how some things are unclear to people.
I’ve been asked every question bar one in the list below, and many others besides. I think we in the advocacy sector might need to ask ourselves some of these questions again to make sure the answers are as clear as possible. And if there’s ambiguity we need to either know that it’s like that for a very good reason or we need to identify what needs to change.
Who is an advocate? What is an advocate? What’s the difference between an advocate, a supporter and a friend. Can nurses be advocates? What is a legal advocate? Can I call myself an advocate? What is a mental health advocate? Do you need to be attached to an organisation to be able to advocate?
Do advocates have any special status in law? Could I just call myself a mental health advocate? What’s the difference between a mental health advocate, someone who calls themselves a mental health advocate and an independent mental health advocate? What is a self advocate? What is a peer advocate? Can you be a volunteer advocate? Who regulates advocates? When you say self advocacy, don’t you just mean talking? What training do advocates have? Do advocates have a special badge, or card or something?
Can you strike off an advocate who is found guilty of wrongdoing? If I call myself an advocate do I get treated differently? How do find out what kind of advocate someone is? What rights do advocates have? Can you stop someone who isn’t an advocate calling themselves an advocate? If someone was trained as an advocate, but isn’t working for an advocacy organisation in relation to this person, can they still call themselves an advocate? If an advocate falls in the woods but there’s no-one there to hear them, will they still challenge the fairness of the process?
Can advocates just walk into hospitals? What do advocates keep confidential? Do advocates have legal privilege? Whose responsibility is to check the status of an advocate? Who pays for advocacy? What does independent mean in advocacy? Who came up with the word advocacy?