Types of advocacy

Published: October 2014
Updated: March 2015

It seems that local authorities have advocacy services for people with learning difficulties, people in the mental health system and so on, and one of the things that I think is really worrying is that people are not just experiencing an individual impairment or illness, they’ve often got two or three things that are very important and it’s understanding that holistic approach to what they might need and how they might need supporting.

Co-production workshop participant

There are many different types of advocacy, including:


I have seen in my many years working in self-advocacy that when people with learning difficulties move into self-advocacy they can move away from the family because they start to have more of a voice.

Co-production workshop participant

Self-advocacy refers to an individual’s ability to effectively communicate his or her own interests, desires, needs and rights. It recognises that people are experts by experience and involves them in speaking out for themselves about the things that are important to them. It means that people are able to ask for what they want and need and to tell others about their thoughts and feelings.

The goal of self-advocacy is for people to decide what they want and to carry out plans to help them get it. Self-advocacy differs from other forms of advocacy in that the individual self-assesses a situation or problem and then speaks for his or her own needs. The ultimate aim of all forms of advocacy should be to support people to self-advocate as far as they are able to.

Group advocacy

Group advocacy involves people with shared experiences, positions or values coming together in groups to talk and listen to each other and speak up collectively about issues that are important to them. These groups aim to influence public opinion, policy and service provision. They vary considerably in size, influence and motive. Representatives of local groups are often included on planning committees and involved in the commissioning and monitoring of health and social care services.

Peer advocacy

Peer advocacy refers to one-to-one support provided by advocates with a similar disability or experience to a person using services. Trained and supported volunteers often provide peer advocacy as part of a coordinated project. Peer advocacy schemes argue that they are particularly well placed to empathise with the needs of people, to approach them as their equals and to feel strongly about, and fight hard for, their needs.

Citizen advocacy

Citizen advocacy aims to involve people in their local community by enabling them to have a voice and to make decisions about the things that affect their lives. Citizen advocacy partnerships are long term, not time-limited, and last for as long as the citizen advocate and the individual want them to. Citizen advocates are ordinary members of the local community. They are unpaid and usually operate with support from a coordinated scheme.

Professional advocacy

Paid independent advocates support and enable people to speak up and represent their views, usually during times of major change or crisis. Such advocacy is issue-based and the advocate may only need to work with the person for a short time.

Non-instructed advocacy

There are four recognised approaches to non-instructed advocacy and providers should endeavour to integrate them all when providing support:

It is important to remember that an individual's capacity to be involved in decision-making or to instruct an advocate may fluctuate. This provides a further argument in favour of a whole-systems approach to advocacy, which maximises the chances of continuity of support.


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