Advocacy in Human Services - A Case Study

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Under the Rainbow Inc. began when a group of four socially conscious people discovered a dire need for quality, unbiased welfare support without prejudice or borders and became an 'incorporated association' in February 2007.

Since its inception, Under the Rainbow Inc. has been committed to excellence in the delivery of social welfare services based on their principles of charity, care and compassion. A range of services designed to promote independence and to enhance quality of life are provided by Under the Rainbow, all of which encompass care and support of local community members, in particular those who require relief from poverty and/or the dependents of any such persons. Advocacy is the primary role of case managers' who volunteer at Under The Rainbow and in this human service setting and any other it is essential for services to be provided accurately.

This essay will define advocacy in a human services context as well as discuss the type of advocacy that is beneficial to clients in this chosen human service setting. In conclusion, this essay will also describe issues that Under The Rainbow have encountered whilst implementing advocacy and change and the way the current political climate can effect their ability to engage in advocacy and deliver quality human services.

Whilst the definition of advocacy in general is broad, in human service and social work practice advocacy is essentially the process of protecting human rights or to change discriminatory or abusive treatment to the vulnerable, whether working with an individual or a group (Corey, Corey & Callanan, 1998).

Human service workers all act as advocates in the course of their work (Sorensen and Black, 2001) and the Australian Association of Social Workers 'Code of Ethics' (2002) supports this view citing, 'The social worker will advocate for changes in policy, service delivery and social conditions which enhance the opportunities for those most vulnerable in the community' however Forbat and Atkinson (2005) argue that advocacy is 'not social work, but its principles and values resonate closely'. Regardless of ones definition, the 'key concept' in the notion of any type of advocacy, is that it requires at least three parties: the client, the advocate and 'the other side' (School of Health and Human Services, 2007).

Literature suggests that the differing types of advocacy seem as broad as its definition and a number of different types of advocacy exist, however within Under the Rainbow's human service framework they are predominately concerned with 'individual' or 'case' advocacy. According to Hepworth & Larsen (1993), case advocacy is a way to 'obtain resources or services for clients that would not otherwise be provided' and this theory underlies Under the Rainbows belief that to advocate for a client is 'to bring about some form of personal and/or social change' (School of Health and Human Services, 2007).

Under the Rainbow is a voluntary community based organisation which now boasts a membership of sixty-five individuals, many of whom work with clients as advocates for change. The goal for each volunteer who manages cases for Under the Rainbow is to promote fair, equal, and humane treatment through fundraising, charity provision (food and clothing), welfare work and social action against injustice for the disadvantaged. Under the Rainbow's social work practice is mainly concerned with implementing changes in the local community to assist in poverty relief to predominately 'voluntary' clients (Barker, 1991), though some are referred.

While the majority of Under the Rainbows' charity work is concerned with 'lending a hand' materially and financially, they also work one-on-one with clients to determine why they 'needed a hand' in the first place and therefore consider both aspects of their human service delivery forms of 'advocating'. However there is some argument as to whether charity and advocating is in fact the same thing. The...
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