Standard 8 All people have access to advocacy and support for housing, welfare and income needs.

AdvoCard and advocacy for people with problematic alcohol and drug use

I’m Scott Murphy and I’m a development coordinator with AdvoCard. We are an independent advocacy service provider in the City of Edinburgh. We are a member of the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA) and adhere to their principles and standards, which include PANEL principles as the baseline for a human rights-based approach. 

Standard 1 – Independent advocacy is loyal to the people it supports and stands by the views and wishes.

Standard 2 – Independent advocacy ensures peoples’ voices are listened to and their views are taken into account.

Standard 3 –Independent advocacy stands up to injustice, discrimination and disempowerment.

See appendix below for more details.

We started our individual advocacy service for people who have/had problematic substance use in August 2019 and our collective advocacy service in March 2020.

As an independent organisation we are able to deliver our service free from conflict of interest and won’t be influenced by the views of others. We are led by our advocacy partners and work with them on what they decide to do.

MAT Standards

Throughout the delivery of the MAT standards the PANEL principles should apply to ensure a human rights-based approach.

People can use the standards to ensure that their voice is being heard, that they are afforded the opportunity to participate and supported to make decisions. That they have a legal framework which ensures their rights are protected, monitored and any issues would be resolved.

People should be able to come together as a group with a shared voice to highlight any failings and positives in the delivery of the standards. These groups should be invited to contribute to any reviews and monitoring of the standards.

Advocacy can support individuals and groups to have their voice heard.

In the delivery of the standards advocacy can support people in their journey, a referral to advocacy should be offered to anyone at any stage.

Advocacy should be seen as a service which benefits all who are involved in the care and treatment of that person.

Not everyone needs advocacy nor should advocacy be forced upon someone because it was decided they would benefit from it.  

Individual Advocacy

Advocacy supports people by discussing their options and rights, by supporting them in decision making, helping them express their views and addressing the imbalance of power.

People can find it hard to say what they wish to say to the people that need to hear it the most. It can be intimidating, scary, anxious and difficult to get their views heard if the people sitting across from them hold all the power.

Advocacy is that independent person that people can discuss things with, explore their options and just talk to knowing that they are not going to judge them, they can be honest with and know that they are on their side.

Having someone with them at meetings can empower them to challenge decisions that professionals are making, to ask questions that they couldn’t ask before, to get their point across and ask for the changes they want to make.

Advocacy is not about giving advice, it’s not about what we think the person should do, it’s about supporting them in the choices and decisions they wish to make.

Advocacy support is an op in service and is here for when people need us.

Service providers also benefit from having advocacy support for the people they work with, advocacy can support people to participate in meetings, contribute to the decision-making progress and allow that person to have an independent person to discuss matters relating to their care and treatment.

Examples of the issues we support people with are – housing, children and families, benefits, access to services, complaint, adult protection and medication.

More details can be found on this SIAA document.

Collective advocacy

Collective advocacy is about bringing people together who have shared experiences and issues.

A collective voice can be stronger for campaigning and letting service providers and policy makers know what positive changes can be made. As with individual advocacy, collective advocacy is led by our advocacy partners. The collective group come together to work on what matters to them and advocacy supports them to have that voice heard where it is needed to be heard.  Collective advocacy can be that voice which helps shape services by the people who use the service.

More details can be found on this SIAA document.

Quotes from Advocacy Partners

‘Without advocacy support, I wouldn’t have been able to attend my appointment.’

‘It’s weird but I feel as though, I was treated different because you were there, they never spoke to me like that before.’

‘That’s funny when I’ve tried to call I’m told she is not available, but when you call you get put straight through.’

‘I didn’t know I could do that, I always just felt they knew best, and did what they said. I feel better now knowing I can ask about different stuff.’

Quotes from professionals

‘Thanks to advocacy the person was able to participate in the meeting for the first time, it was really great to be able to hear their views.’

‘Advocacy is great because it means I can focus on my specific job role and support, whilst knowing advocacy can support the person with their other needs.’

‘I think advocacy will be good as it will allow people to feedback in a way which works for them, I would like to know more about how people view and feel about our service’

Quotes from AdvoCard

‘People can feel ignored, that their views don’t count, that decisions have already been made with no opportunity to participate, this type of meeting comes across as people being told rather than asked.’

‘Advocacy support can empower people to hold decision makers to account, it can ensure people get the opportunity to participate and it can make all the difference to the outcomes’

‘People are keen to ask can they do that? Is that allowed? Or can I ask this? Can you speak for me because I can’t’


Advocacy principles and standards

  • Independent advocacy is loyal to the people it supports and stands by their views and wishes.


  • Independent advocacy follows the agenda of the people supported regardles of the views, interests and agendas of others.
  • Independent advocacy must be able to evidence and demonstrate its structural,financial and psychological independence from others.
  • Independent advocacy provides no other services, has no other interests, ties or links other than the delivery, promotion, support and defence of independent advocacy.
  • Independent advocacy ensures people’s voices are listened to and their views are taken into account.


  • Independent advocacy recognises and safeguards everyone’s right to be heard.
  • Independent advocacy reduces the barriers people face in having their voiceheard because of communication, or capacity, or the political, social, economic and personal interests of others.
  • Independent advocacy stands up to injustice, discrimination and disempowerment.


  • Independent advocacy recognises power imbalances or barriers people face and takes steps to address these.
  • Independent advocacy enables people to have more agency, greater control and influence.
  • Independent advocacy challenges discrimination and promotes equality and human right

A link to the SIAA principles, standards and code of best practice document can be found here SIAA