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Advocacy is the practice of speaking or acting on behalf of other people, known as either partners or clients. Most often, partners or clients are vulnerable adults: the elderly; the mentally ill; and the physically impaired.
Advocates, both paid and unpaid, work with people from all backgrounds and aim to facilitate integration and participation in a community, to help partners take control of their own lives and to promote independence.
There are different levels of advocacy:
Citizen advocacy -involves a typically sociable or well-known person in a community, the advocate, partnering up with and befriending someone who has a disability or learning difficulty. The two spend time together and the advocate helps introduce the partner into society through activities and socialising. Aside from the social aspects, citizen advocates might help their partners in different ways to make life easier, such as by helping to organise housing, offering transportation services or performing everyday tasks, such as filling out complicated paperwork. This type of long-term advocacy can last indefinitely, depending on the relationship between the partners and the needs of the client.
Short-term citizen advocacy -is when the relationship between the advocate and the partner is formed purely for the purpose of resolving an issue or small number of issues and will end once any issues are solved.
Self-advocacy -is where people with learning and development disabilities take more of a proactive role in speaking for themselves, voicing their opinions in terms of the care they receive and encouraging people in similar situations to do the same.
Crisis or emergency advocacy -is normally undertaken by paid professional advocates who are brought in to assist an isolated person through an uneasy experience or a crucial transition, such as a change in accommodation or healthcare plans. They also assist vulnerable people going through court proceedings.