Advocacy for People with Learning Difficulties: The Role of Two Organisations

Tilley, Elizabeth Kate (2007). Advocacy for People with Learning Difficulties: The Role of Two Organisations. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is about advocacy for people with learning difficulties. It has been undertaken through a detailed study of two different types of advocacy organisations - People's Voices (a situation-based, one-to-one advocacy group) and Talkback (a self-advocacy group). Both organisations are based in Buckinghamshire.

The research had two main aims. The first was to explore the values, principles and theories that underpin the work of advocacy organisations, and to consider how they are borne out in practice. This required a thorough analysis of organisational processes and relationships between group members. The second aim was to assess how advocacy organisations interact with and are shaped by the wider environment. This involved an in-depth examination of the local (historical and socio-political) context, as well as relations between the groups and external stakeholders - in particular, statutory bodies.

The research found that although members of advocacy groups are generally inspired by a similar vision, ideas about how this might be achieved varied among respondents. Whilst the groups were guided by a strong set of values and principles, these were sometimes difficult to implement in practice - particularly with regard to how advocacy organisations are run. The thesis also showed that whilst advocacy organisations can and do direct their own agenda, they also face pressures from the wider environment - most notably through commissioning arrangements. In this way the thesis shed light upon wider questions concerning the relationship between statutory bodies and the voluntary sector, in the health and social care field in England. The research revealed the complexity of advocacy organisations, and highlighted the need for more in-depth, localised studies.

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