What is advocacy?

Advocacy is when you get support to have your say.

A man is talking to another man who is in a wheelchair

Advocacy support can help to give you the confidence and ability to speak up about things that are important in your life.

A man holding a megaphone.

Advocacy is about helping people to communicate their wishes. 

An advocate can help to support you to speak out about your rights


  • do not speak on behalf of people with a  learning disability  – they cannot make decisions for a person with a learning disability or offer their advice or opinions.  
  • can help you to communicate your views, needs and wishes, and to make your thoughts and opinions heard.
  • can support people to develop skills, confidence, and knowledge, and make sure they are being treated fairly. 

Advocates help people to:

  • access information and services
  • be involved in decisions about people’s lives
  • explore choices and options
  • speak out about issues that matter to them. 
A support worker helps someone on a laptop sitting at a desk

How advocacy services work?

Mencap do not offer an advocacy service.

However, every  local authority  pays for advocacy services to support people who need help making their voice heard.  

Advocacy services are provided by an advocate who is independent, and who is not part of your family or one of your friends.

Being independent means, they are there to represent wishes without giving their own opinion and without representing anyone else’s views.

An advocate may support you in other ways, like writing letters for you. 

There are different types of advocacy:

Instructed advocacy

If you feel that you cannot share your views, you can tell the advocate what you would like them to say and do. The advocate can then work with you to understand what you need, and then support you by clearly putting your points across. 

A support worker crouches down next to a man in a wheelchair

Non-instructed advocacy

If someone does not have the capacity to tell an advocate what they want them to do, the advocate will use other ways to try to understand the individual and their situation. The advocate can then make sure the person is not missing out on things that we all take for granted.

If somebody cannot make a decision for themselves because they do not have the capacity at that time, an advocate can make sure their best interests are represented. 

A support worker is crouched down next to the lady she cares for who is sitting on a chair
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What advocacy is available?

Independent Care Act Advocacy can help you to understand and effectively navigate Care Act processes, such as assessments, care planning, safeguarding and reviews.

Each Local Authority in England pays for Care Act Advocacy.

If you, or a loved one might need support which comes under the Care Act (2014), ask your Local Authority who offers Care Act Advocacy in your area.  

This information can usually be found on their website

An IMCA is an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate - an advocate that can offer support to people using the Mental Capacity Act (2005). They can act on behalf of people aged 16 or over, that lack the capacity to make decisions at that time. 

A Relevant Person’s Paid Representative is a usually a qualified advocate that offers support to people who are deprived of their liberty under a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS).

IMHA is an Independent Mental Health Advocate that can offer support to people using the Mental Health Act (1983). They can act on behalf of some people that are detained or liable to be detained under the Mental Health Act. 

If you or your loved one have received inadequate care or treatment in hospital, you have the right to complain using NHS Complaints Advocacy.

An Independent Sexual Violence Adviser can offer specialist person centred support to people that have experienced sexual assault or rape. Although they are not statutory advocates, they are available in most Local Authority areas in England. To get support from an ISVA, you do not have to have reported anything to the police, and they will not make you report it if you do not want to.

Healthwatch supports people and communities to feedback on and challenge how health and social care services are being run in their area. Healthwatch gather people's views and experiences of health and care services and write reports and recommendations to the people who pay for the services to be delivered. 

Instructions about how to share your story with Healthwatch.

An Independent Domestic Violence Advocate works with survivors of domestic abuse to listen and advocate on their behalf. An IDVA works with survivors to help make a personal safety plan to reduce the risk to the survivor and their children.