Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 July 2022
Cases discussed in previous chapters show that advocates will sometimes come up against public services which, despite the advocates’ best efforts, completely fail to give their clients the help they are entitled to expect. That may be because they have run out of money, because they are badly managed, because they are hostile to the client, because they have chosen to focus on other priorities or for other reasons. It is unfair to advocates, and useless for their clients, to send them out to ask for things we know will be refused. But advocates would be failing in their duty if they accepted bad services without trying to make them better. So what should they do?
There can be no single answer to that question – what can be done will depend on local circumstances. But this chapter may help people who encounter such roadblocks to formulate a policy for dealing with them. A policy of some sort will certainly be needed.
Advocates may, in their own time, be active in all sorts of causes. But the agencies they work with have to accept that they cannot be all-out campaigners – constantly writing letters to the press, seeking the help of politicians and staging demonstrations in the street. The authorities paying for their work would be entitled to say: “We pay you to advocate for your clients; not to light fires under us.” More important still, they would find their campaigns sometimes divide the clients for whom they claim to speak. Some parents of children with additional educational needs passionately believe their youngsters should go to schools outside the mainstream. Others believe, equally passionately, they should go to mainstream schools. Some patients would resist electro-convulsive therapy at all costs. Others find it helpful. Advocacy agencies cannot campaign for both. So what else should they do?
Principles and practice
First, some guiding principles. We should start with the users of our services, find out what they want and help them to campaign for those things when they wish to do so. We speak for them and for no one else. If we do get involved in protests we should involve our clients, their friends and families in any way we can.
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