Advocacy in practice: The troubled position of advocates in adult services

Forbat, Liz and Atkinson, Dorothy (2005). Advocacy in practice: The troubled position of advocates in adult services. British Journal of Social Work, 35(3) pp. 321–335.



This paper is a review, and critical appraisal, of the theory and practice of advocacy. Advocacy is not social work, but its principles and values resonate closely to those espoused by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW, 2002). In this paper, we interrogate the assumption that advocacy is necessarily always a positive and enabling experience. Indeed, we suggest that the use of advocacy can be contested from the point of view of the service user (the advocacy partner), the advocate and from professionals working with advocates (or positioning themselves as advocates).
Drawing on recent research that evaluated advocacy services in Nottinghamshire, we discuss some of the key tensions. In particular, we consider the reality of the advocate's role, including where it relates to and differs from social work, and the issue of whether advocacy can be a part of what a social worker does anyway. We also review, briefly, the dilemmas arising from professionals acting as advocates, especially in relation to being independent of services.

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