Advocacy principles and standards

Published: October 2014
Updated: March 2015


Co-production means that what you have to say as a service user is just as important as what other people have to say about the service you receive.

Co-production workshop participant

Guidance on market shaping and the commissioning of care and support in relation to the Care Act 2014 states that local authorities should take a co-production approach to market shaping and commissioning.

Quality advocacy services are person-centred and developed using a co-production approach that aims to maximise the participation of people who use services and their carers. Co-production means delivering services based on an equal and reciprocal relationship between users, carers and professionals, and results in the provision of support that meets individual needs.

Equality and diversity

Advocacy projects should be able to meet the needs of diverse local populations.

Publicly funded advocacy providers must comply with the public sector equality duty (PSED) (Equality Act 2010) by paying due regard, when carrying out their functions, to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a ‘protected characteristic’.

The protected characteristics are:

For further information on complying with the public sector equality duty please see the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) guidance.

The eight quality areas

The advocacy Quality Performance Mark (QPM) is a robust, quality assessment and assurance system for providers of independent advocacy. It is a tool used to benchmark independent advocacy services against a framework. The eight key quality areas that form the Mark are as follows.


The Quality Performance Mark framework is designed for use by providers of independent advocacy. It is the independence of advocacy that allows services to be led by and responsible to the client. Research shows that independence is one of the key attributes that people coming to advocacy services are looking for.

Clarity of purpose

It is essential that everyone knows what they can expect from an advocacy service. Providing clarity helps in the following ways:


Confidentiality is a cornerstone of independent advocacy. It establishes a relationship of trust that enables people to tell their stories and explore the options available to them. However, confidentiality should not be a barrier to the supervision and support of advocates.

It is essential that services have a clear confidentiality policy which is regularly reviewed. It is equally important that people who come to the advocacy service are given clear information about what confidentiality means and the circumstances under which it will not be possible to maintain confidentiality.


An additional set of indicators relating to safeguarding has been added to the latest edition of the Quality Performance Mark. This was necessary following the abuse and neglect at the Winterbourne View and Mid-Staffordshire hospitals, to ensure that advocacy providers and advocates are suitably knowledgeable and experienced in identifying safeguarding issues.

Empowerment and putting people first

Advocacy services need to be focused on the person they are working with. One way of achieving this is to ensure that people who do, or may, use the advocacy service have meaningful influence over the direction of that service.

As advocacy is about increasing the amount of control that people have over their own lives, advocacy services need to ensure they are working in a way that fosters independence. It is important to create a culture that promotes individual empowerment and to develop methods to determine outcomes with clients and measure the effectiveness of the advocacy relationship.

Equality, accessibility and diversity

As well as complying with equality legislation (Equality Act 2010 in particular), it is expected that advocacy services take proactive steps to ensure equitable and easy access to them. Having equal opportunities policies is only part of the process. Proactive efforts must be made to implement such policies, remove barriers and deliver accessible and equitable services.

Accountability and complaints

Advocacy services must be held accountable for the work they do and the way they use the funding they receive. Different stakeholders can hold advocacy services to account in different ways. Funders should be able to see that money is being spent wisely by assessing the effectiveness of the advocacy service. The service should be accountable for meeting the needs of its local community, its legal responsibilities and adhering to agreed advocacy principles. Just as importantly, individuals should be able to expect a high quality service and should have a clear and accessible route for complaints if they are unhappy with the service provided. This must include independent support for complainants.

Supporting advocates

Policies, procedures and organisational structure count for nothing if the people delivering advocacy are not adequately trained or supported. Providing training for advocates and ensuring adequate and appropriate supervision are essential if services are to retain skilled advocates and ensure high quality advocacy for people who need it.


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