Advocacy Essay

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Drawing on your current and previous social care experience, theoretical perspectives and knowledge acquired through the DPP2 module, present a discussion of your understanding of these concepts and, their relevance to your own developing professional practice.

This assignment will examine the concepts of Advocacy, Partnership Working and Empowerment. It will firstly describe the three concepts individually and then, in order to examine the topic in more depth, scrutinise how the concepts link and are relevant to each other. The complexities and tensions regarding these connections and how these may impact on service users, social workers and social care agencies will also be examined. Examples of professional working practice will be used throughout to demonstrate how theory is applied to practice.

Advocacy
Advocacy can be described as acting on behalf of another person or group of people (Banks, 2001). This concept is especially important in social care because the client group is often unable to speak out for themselves, due to issues such as vulnerability, isolation or lack of family support networks. Advocacy enables workers to empower service users by ensuring that their needs and rights are met, and by securing services that they are entitled to. It redresses the power imbalances by guaranteeing that the service user is involved with discussing options and negotiating agreements (Braye et al, 1998). An advocate’s role is to comply with the wishes and instructions of the client and to keep them thoroughly informed throughout the process. Confidentiality and acting impartially are also critical in advocacy as the service users own desires are the most important factor (Thompson, 2001).

In my role as a Youth Offending Team Officer, I act as an advocate regularly. An example of this is when a young person is homeless and I act as an independent advocate by speaking out on behalf of my client. The legislation around young people and homelessness is complicated and often they are unaware of their legal rights. Because of this, they may attend the housing service alone and come away feeling that they did not get a desired result, but feel powerless and unable to argue their case, often due to a lack of confidence in their interpersonal skills (Braye et al, 1998). In these instances, I will speak out on behalf of the young people that I work with. In doing this, I listen to their situation and what they want, and then advise them on what their rights are. On the young person’s agreement, we will attend the housing service together or I will make phone calls on their behalf. As I have more experience in negotiating with services, and I am also confident about doing this, this enables the young person to voice their opinions and desires through me in order to get the services they require and are entitled to. I also empwer the young person by informing them of the law and their rights in relation to housing and other areas so that they are informed for future events. In this way, the young person is gaining in knowledge which will give them life skills enabling them to gain independence and autonomy for the future.

It is important with advocacy that the power stays with the service user. It would be too easy to take control of the situation leaving the client unaware of what is happening and feeling more powerless than ever. In order to avoid this, it is vital to ensure that advocacy is used as a tool of empowerment. This can be carried out by the advocate listening and acting in accordance with the client’s wishes and instructions, and also by keeping them fully informed and acting impartially.

Self advocacy is a term which describes people speaking up for themselves and asserting their rights. This can be done either alone or in a group with other people who have had similar experiences. This is a form of assertion and empowerment, resulting in taking away some of the power from...
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