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Advocacy in mental health

Explains what advocacy is and how it can help you. Gives information on different types of advocacy, including statutory advocates, what sort of situations an advocate can help you with, and how to find an advocate.

What is advocacy in social care?

Advocates in social care are independent from the local authority (local council) and the NHS. They are trained to help you understand your rights, express your views and wishes, and help make sure your voice is heard.

The law on entitlement to social care advocacy is different in England and Wales.

(For information about your rights to health and social care support, see our legal pages on health and social care rights.)

Am I entitled to an advocate in England?

The Care Act 2014 says that, when decisions are made about your social care, it's important that:

  • you should be able to participate as fully as possible
  • your views, wishes, feelings and beliefs should be taken into consideration
  • all your relevant circumstances are taken into account.

The law says that you need an advocate if you have difficulty in any one of these areas:

  • understanding relevant information
  • retaining information
  • using or weighing information (for example being able to see the advantages or disadvantages in different options)
  • communicating your views, wishes and feelings.

Local authorities are under a duty to involve you in decisions made about your care and support. If you have difficulty being involved in these decisions, then your local authority must provide an advocate, unless there is someone else suitable to support you.

When doesn't the local authority have to provide an advocate?

The local authority doesn't have to provide you with an advocate if there is an appropriate person to support and represent you, like a:

  • family member
  • unpaid carer
  • friend.

A person cannot be an appropriate person if:

  • they are your professional or paid carer
  • you don't consent to them being your appropriate person
  • you lack the capacity to decide whether they should be your appropriate person, and the local authority considers it's not in your best interests for them to be your appropriate person.

In what situations will an advocate support me?

The local authority should consider right from the beginning of their involvement with you whether you have any difficulties that mean that you should have an advocate.

You are entitled to the support of an advocate:


Jake is 23 and has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and autistic spectrum disorder. He lives with his parents who misuse alcohol, have other health problems and are suspicious and critical of the social services department. The local authority considers that he may have needs for care and support and arranges to carry out a needs assessment.

The local authority must consider from their first involvement with Jake whether he should have the support of an advocate. They consider things like:

  • Jake's health condition
  • his personal domestic circumstances
  • whether he may be at risk of neglect
  • whether he has difficulty using or weighing information and communicating his wishes.

The local authority considers that Jake may need an advocate.

Jake says that he wants his mother to represent him at his needs assessment and to speak on his behalf. The local authority considers that Jake's mother's own problems with alcohol and her mistrust of the social services department mean that she is not an appropriate person to support Jake's involvement. The local authority must provide an advocate for him.

Jake is supported by the advocate during his needs assessment. The advocate explains the process to him and tells him what his rights are under the Care Act 2014. The advocate also supports Jake during the care planning process. Jake had some concerns about how the process was carried out and the advocate communicated those concerns to the local authority in writing.

Am I entitled to an advocate in Wales?

In Wales, the law says that local authorities do not have to provide you with an advocate when it is carrying out its functions under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. However, local authorities must consider arranging for an independent advocate to help and represent you if don't have an appropriate individual who can help.

An appropriate individual could be:

  • a family member
  • a friend
  • someone from your wider support network.

In what situations will an advocate support me?

An advocate can support you during:

This information was published in March 2018. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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