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Advocacy for Individuals With Learning Disabilities

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Jun 2020 | comments*Discuss
Advocacy Advocate Peer Citizen Case

People with learning disabilities may not be able to live independently on a day-to-day basis. To have the same opportunities and rights as every one else in society therefore, they require independent support to ensure that they are able to live their lives to the fullest extent. This can be achieved by: receiving the right health care; access to facilities and the community; a social life; employment and educational opportunities; housing; the ability to make their own choices and to make their needs and opinions known.

The needs and requirements of each individual with a learning disability can be vastly different, depending on what they are able to do and the severity of their disability. Of course, as individuals we all have different preferences, and so in order for a person with a learning disability to communicate these opinions, preferences, requirements and needs, they may require an advocate.


The word advocacy means active support of a cause or an idea; in this context, an advocate is a person that speaks up for someone with learning disabilities. Advocacy for people with learning disabilities is hugely important, as they are often at risk of being ignored because they may not be able to communicate verbally or in a ‘conventional’ way.

An independent advocate will help to change things for another person and help them to live as independently as possible, making their own choices and achieving their goals and ambitions – in short, helping to give them more control over their own lives. Advocacy is all about placing the person at the centre of the support, planning or action.

Different Types of Advocacy

Everybody is different, and this means that their individual needs are different, and may also change throughout their life. A range of different approaches to advocacy has been developed to address these differing support needs, which in turn can be adapted and used as and when required. Here are the different types of advocacy as outlined by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities:

1. Self-Advocacy

As the name suggests, self-advocacy means speaking up for oneself. Most people are able to do this, and it is an ideal way to ensure that appropriate support needs are realised. But although many people with learning disabilities are able to self-advocate, it can be difficult for them to get others to listen; this is where self-advocacy groups can help. They allow people with learning disabilities to join together to support each other and build confidence, helping to achieve desired results.

2. Peer Advocacy

Sometimes two or more people with a learning disability may share comparable experiences through living in similar environments or experiencing the same challenges. Peer advocacy is when two people have shared the same kind of experiences, and so are able to relate to each other and offer empathy and support – two very important qualities.

3. Independent Citizen Advocacy

A citizen can independently volunteer to speak up for a person with learning disabilities, representing them as their ‘citizen advocate’. The individual being spoken up for is known as the ‘advocacy partner’, and is usually a person who actively requires help in making their wishes, choices and decisions made known, otherwise the advocacy partner risks being ignored. Citizen advocates undertake this role independently and on a voluntary basis (without payment) The partnership is based on trust, loyalty and confidentiality. The citizen advocate communicates their advocacy partner’s wishes, decisions, choices and opinions in an unbiased way, exercising no influence of their own. Advocacy schemes are now running in order to help match voluntary citizen advocates and their partners.

4. Paid Advocacy

This is usually a short-term arrangement, whereby an advocate steps in to assist in circumstances where large numbers of those requiring assistance with advocacy are required. Paid advocates may operate in larger organisations and look after several people at once, eventually handing over to one-to-one advocacy partners.

5. Case Advocacy

There are times when an advocate is required at short notice, on a temporary basis – this may be due to a crisis situation, or in cases where extra assistance is required, such as moving house, gaining employment or in financial matters. In these circumstances, a case advocate may step in to assist alongside citizen advocates or peer advocates as they often have a special expertise suited to the particular situation.

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Looking for an advocate to help me with social services I have a me tsl health and phyical and learning disability needs and social worker is saying that becouse I was not in a special school I dont have a lesring disability and that I would not get help form them I need help asap am in the north west area
Charlotte - 15-Jun-20 @ 3:51 PM
I need a paid or unpaid advocacy to help me I need a list of active forces who can help me in the Cornwall area or in any other area who can help me
Ant - 29-Jan-19 @ 3:18 AM
Disability discrimination & medical negligence (mental health) I have sever ADHD , dyslexia , depression, social anxiety.
Christina - 25-Sep-18 @ 12:26 AM
hi we are a charity called opening doors and run by people with learning disabilities for people with learning disabilities and the parents group is a part of opening doors and I just wondered if you could help me to promote this group please as we are trying to get more parents with learning disabilities to come to the group I have got posters I can email to you if ok thank you from Hayley parents group coordinator
hales - 11-Aug-14 @ 5:13 PM
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